Novak Djokovic has become the first man to win grand slams across three different decades, as he tussled to a exceptional five set victory against Dominic Thiem in the final of the Australian Open.
The Serbian Djokovic has lifted the crown eight times now and has never lost in the final at Melbourne Park. But tonight was potentially the furthest he has been pushed at this stage of the competition, having to fight back from two sets to one down.
Early on in the match it looked as if debutant finalist Thiem had not brought his A-game, as he quickly fell to a 3-0 deficit in the first set. Last year Djokovic blew away Nadal in the final, thrashing him 6-3 6-2 6-3, but the 26 year old Austrian Thiem was not going to stand for falling to a similar fate as Nadal. He fought back to level the set at 4-4 showing the crowd we had a match on our hands.
Now 17 time Grand Slam title winner Djokovic broke again to take the first set 6-4 but rather fell apart after this. Thiem who had beaten Djokovic in four of their previous five meetings later won six games in a row to win the second set 6-4 and surge to a 4-0 lead in the third.
The Austrian actually lead Djokovic 2-1 in their three grand slam meetings before today, and looked as if he may extend this further when he wrapped up set number three 6-2. The two time French Open finalist has never won a slam however, and still faced a gigantic task of seeing the match out against one of the greatest players to step onto the court.
Thiem lost a vital break point at 1-1 in the fourth set and this potentially gave Djokovic a new surge of life. At 4-3, his younger opponent hit some wild shots to hand the Serb at two game lead, and keeping cool and collected Djokovic closed the set at 6-3 to take it the distance.
32 year old Djokovic won his first Australian Open title 12 years ago, in 2008 when he defeated one time slam finalist Jo Wilfried Tsonga in four sets after losing the first. And today would mark another comeback, as he broke Thiem early in the fifth.
Before the fortnight Thiem had never previously made the quarter final at Melbourne Park, but this week has seen him battle past world number one Rafael Nadal, and also against Alexander Zverev who had looked formidable in the run up to the semi final. So this was a good indicator that the 26 year old would not go down with a fight, and he battled to hold serve at every other time of asking in the final set.
Despite Thiem’s resilience though, the man from Belgrade would not be stopped. Djokovic held firm and from 0-15 down served the set out to 6-4 and lift his eighth crown on Rod Laver Arena.
After the lifting his trophy Djokovic paid respect to Australia’s devastating bushfires and the death of Kobe Bryant. In his victory speech he said: “Devastating things started 2020 with the bushfires. And one person I considered a mentor to me Kobe Bryant and his daughter passed away.
“This is a reminder to all of us we should stick together more than ever and be with our families. Stay close to the people that love you. We are part of a sport where we compete but obviously there are more important things in life. It is important to be humble and conscious of the things happening around you.”
Collectively over $6million has been raised over the Australian tennis summer to help the bush fire relief.
Djokovic also paid tribute to Thiem: “Congratulations Dominic for a great tournament. You were very close to winning and you definitely have a lot of time left in your career. I am sure you will win more than one of the Grand Slams in your career.”
Before the champion’s interview Thiem also congratulated Djokovic and lamented on a successful week for him. He said: “I am proud and happy I can compete in these times with you (The Big Three). I fell short today but I hope soon I can get revenge. Congratulations.
“I experienced a huge support. Thanks to everybody who comes and I think it is one of the best sporting events in the world. It has been a pleasure and I am already looking forward to next year.”
Next week the ATP Tour returns, with the first clay event of the year in Cordoba, Argentina. Fellow ATP events are also running in Montpellier and Pune.