World number one Novak Djokovic defeated peerless Russian Daniel Medvedev in straight sets to win the Australian Open tennis title for the ninth time and extend his record reign at Melbourne Park on Sunday.
Djokovic beat the fourth seed 7-5 6-2 6-2 in front of 7,400 fans at the Rod Laver Arena to end the Russian unbeaten run in 20 games.
By winning the Australian Open for the third time in a row, the Serbian achieved his eighteenth Grand Slam title, moving by two lead to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have 20 each, while Medvedev was denied the first victory.
Rarely has he been a dominant player in a single tournament, as his record-breaking ninth title by the Serbian overtakes eight Federer at Wimbledon, but still far from the 13 Nadal he won at Roland Garros.
But it was a quick trip to get there, as Djokovic lost five sets en route to the final and faced an abdominal injury that nearly forced him to withdraw after the third round.
Despite admitting that continuing to play was a gamble, with the risk that the injury would worsen and affect the rest of his season, the 33-year-old chose to continue and it has paid off.
“Thanks to this court, Rod Laver Stadium, I love you more and more every year – the love affair continues,” Djokovic said with relief as he praised Medvedev.
He said, “Daniel, classy acting, great guy and amazing guy.”
“I really love him off the field … but on the field he is definitely one of the strongest players I’ve ever faced.
“It is only a matter of time until you compete in a major tournament.”
Djokovic’s speech to the crowd came after tennis Australia president Jane Hardlica was booed for mentioning the Covid vaccine and the Victorian government.
The unusual scenes came at the end of a tournament delayed three weeks by the coronavirus and had to ban fans for five days when state authorities ordered an abrupt shutdown.
– “Today was not today” –
Medvedev, 25, is one of the smartest players on the tour, making his opponents guess with his flat and low ground strikes, changing speed and angles, mixing impenetrable defense with opportunistic attack.
But the Serbian, who scored 4-3 head-to-head against him but lost three of the previous four, had what he wanted.
“It is never easy to find the words when you have just lost the final of a Grand Slam tournament,” Medvedev said.
“But congratulations to Novak and his team. I mean, nine major tournaments in Australia and 18 in total are amazing and probably not the last.”
He added, “I really wanted to make this match long and entertaining, but today was not today.”
In front of the pro-Djokovic crowd, Medvedev defeated two forehands in his opening serve and then sent one of them into the net to give the Serbian first breaking points, then spotted him with a wild backhand instantly with the back foot.
Djokovic held out by sending him in love before the Russian finally walked off the mark with a 1-3 wobbly fist. But then, a failed shot and a powerful shot from the number one seed allowed the Russians to back up.
Long hikes followed and continued serving until some impressive ground hits earned Djokovic a 3-break break point at 6-5. Medvedev saved two, but not the third, to lose the first set.
– Racket Smash –
The tall and thin Russian player did not hinder the progress and increased the pressure to break the first Djokovic service in the second set, only to respond to the Serbian immediately.
Djokovic won three games in a row, despite the inconvenience of two fans being evicted in an apparent refugee protest, when he took over.
Raced to the lead 5-2 as Medvedev crushed the racket in frustration as the group and the Championship began to slide away.
Medvedev lost his opening serve in the third set and never looked like he would find a way back as Djokovic relied, in his 28th Grand Slam final compared to the second for the Russian, on his experience finishing the match, and went to the stadium to celebrate.
The victory cemented Djokovic’s position as the world number one, as he will celebrate his 311st week when new rankings appear on Monday, surpassing Federer’s record of 310.
Medvedev will move to third in the standings, behind Nadal.
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