Sunday, January 27, 2019

Djokovic dominates Nadal for seventh Aussie Open title

Novak Djokovic poses with the Serbian flag after winning the 2015
BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Djokovic won his 15th Grand Slam
singles title today to break a tie with his idol, Pete Sampras, for third
place on the all-time list. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Most signs pointed to another classic today in the Australian Open men's singles final.
   Novak Djokovic is ranked No. 1 and Rafael Nadal No. 2.
   Djokovic was coming off a near-flawless performance against Lucas Pouille of France. Nadal hadn't lost a set in the tournament.
   Djokovic had outlasted Nadal in 5 hours, 53 minutes in 2012 in their only previous meeting in the Australian Open final. That remains the longest title match in Grand Slam history.
   But in one of the most impressive performances of his career, Djokovic streamrolled Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in 2 hours, 4 minutes. Nadal was playing in only his second tournament since August because of injuries.
   Djokovic laced 34 winners and committed only nine unforced errors after finishing with 24 and five, respectively, against Pouille. In both matches combined, Djokovic had 14 aces and no double faults.
   "It ranks right at the top," said Djokovic, who improved to 28-25 against Nadal. "Under the circumstances, playing against Nadal, such an important match, it's amazing. Obviously, back-to-back semifinals and final, I think I made 15 unforced errors in total in two matches. It's quite pleasantly surprising to myself, as well, even though I always believe I can play this way, visualize myself playing this way. At this level ... it was truly a perfect match."
   Djokovic, 31, won his seventh Australian Open singles title, breaking the record he had shared with Roger Federer and Roy Emerson.
   It was Djokovic's third consecutive Grand Slam crown, all in straight sets, after a drought of more than two years and his 15th major singles title, snapping a tie with his idol, Pete Sampras, for third place all time behind Federer (20) and Nadal (17). 
   "(Sampras) was someone that I look up to," Djokovic said. "When I started to play tennis, one of the first images (I had) was him playing Wimbledon, winning (his second major) title back in '93. I was a small boy in Kopaonik, this mountain resort in the south of Serbia. Nobody had ever touched a tennis racket before me. I did not have a tennis tradition in my family. I did have sports tradition. So it was definitely a sign of destiny to start playing tennis, to aspire to be as good as Pete. To surprass him with Grand Slam titles, I'm speechless." 
   It was also Djokovic's most one-sided victory in a Grand Slam final, edging his 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 domination of Andy Murray in the 2011 Australian Open, and Nadal's only straight-set loss in a major title match.
   "I think he played fantastic," said Nadal, who fell to 1-4 in Australian Open finals. "When he's playing that way, I think I needed something else. I was not able to have that extra 'thing' tonight. (It) was unbelievable the way that he played, no doubt about that. ...
   "I played fantastic tennis during both weeks, but probably (by) playing that well, I didn't suffer much. Five months without competing, having that big challenge in front of me, I needed something else. ... That's my feeling, to compete at this super-high level."
   Nadal was trying to become the first man in the Open era (since 1968) and the third man in history (with Emerson and Rod Laver) to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice.
   In the men's doubles final, fifth-seeded Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut of France completed a career Grand Slam with a 6-4, 7-6 (1) victory over 12th-seeded Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia. Kontinen and Peers won the 2017 Australian Open.

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