Unsinkable Djokovic Edges Thiem In Five-Set Slugfest To Keep Perfect Australian Open Final Record

Even when he’s not at his best, Novak Djokovic remains the best. For the first time in eight tries, the Serbian rallied from a two-set-to-one deficit to win a Grand Slam final (6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4).

Novak Djokovic

And for a perfect eighth time in as many tries, Djokovic walked off an Australian Open final the winner. For his first hardcourt Major final appearance, Dominic Thiem threw everything at Djokovic – but the defending champion was simply unsinkable. He extends his titanic Grand Slam tally to 17.

Expectedly, Djokovic started right out the gates, breaking Thiem in his first try to mount an early 4-1 lead. Despite the Austrian’s late surge from 1-4 to 4-4, Djokovic broke again on a Thiem double fault to secure the first set 6-4.

There were some worrying signs for Thiem. When winning the first set, Djokovic was:

— 66-1 at the Australian Open

— 53-0 in his last 53 Grand Slam matches

But the match stayed on Thiem’s terms thanks to the No. 5 seed’s heavy groundstrokes, which helped him to a 4-2 lead in the second set.

While Djokovic reclaimed his break, he received two consecutive time violation warnings at 4-4 then had a heated argument with umpire Damien Dumusois.

“Great job, man. You’ve made yourself famous. Well done,” Djokovic told Dumusois.

 

He then lost his serve and the set, 6-4.

Thiem built on the momentum to take a double-break advantage in the third set, inflicting a virtual bagel (6-0 over two sets) to Djokovic, who called the trainer while down 1-4. The Austrian converted his fourth set point to take the set, 6-2, and edge closer to his first Grand Slam title.

This time around, stats were rather worrying for Djokovic…

 

But the Serbian hadn’t say die. He broke for 5-3 in the fourth and levelled the match to two sets all.

With a 3-1 record in Grand Slam final sets (his only loss coming to Andy Murray at the 2012 US Open), Djokovic had regained favorite status, and one crucial break at 2-1 would prove enough to earn him a record-extending 8th Australian Open title (6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4) on a last Thiem unforced error.

In his winner’s speech, Djokovic acknowledged both the bushfires that ravaged Australia this summer and the tragic loss of his mentor, Kobe Bryant.

With now 17 Slams to his name — just two and three less than Nadal and Federer respectively — the arguments for Novak Djokovic not being the G.O.A.T. of men’s tennis continue to get slimmer.

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