Sunday, February 2, 2020

Djokovic rallies to win eighth Australian Open title

Novak Djokovic poses with the trophy and Serbian flag after winning
the 2015 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Trying to ("tryna" in today's vernacular) beat Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open is like trying to beat Rafael Nadal in the French Open.
   Just ask Dominic Thiem. For the third time, the 26-year-old Austrian had the misfortune of facing an all-time great in the final of Djokovic's or Nadal's favorite tournament.
   Djokovic improved to 8-0 in Australian Open finals early today, topping Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 3 hours, 59 minutes in Melbourne. In the fifth set, Djokovic saved two break points to lead 3-1. Thirty minutes later, it was over.
   No other man has won the Australian Open more than six times.
   "This tournament sets a high standard for all the other tournaments around the world, and it's definitely my favorite court, my favorite stadium in the world," the second-seeded Djokovic said during the trophy presentation at Rod Laver Arena. "I'm blessed to hold this trophy once again."
   Djokovic became the first man in the Open era to win Grand Slam singles titles in three decades. He will return to No. 1 on Monday, replacing Nadal.
   Thiem, meanwhile, fell to 0-3 in Grand Slam finals. He has lost the last two French Open title matches to Nadal, who's 12-0 in Roland Garros finals.
   "I would like to start by saying a huge congrats to Novak (for) an amazing achievement," the fifth-seeded Thiem said. "It's unreal what you and your team are doing throughout all these years. You and two other guys (Nadal and Roger Federer) have brought men's tennis to a complete new level, and I'm really proud and happy to compete and be a part of these times. I fell short today, but I hope to get revenge soon."
   The French Open, the next Grand Slam tournament, is scheduled for May 24-June 7.
   Djokovic, 32, won his 17th Grand Slam singles title, including five of the last seven majors. He trails only Federer (20) and Nadal (19) on the all-time list. One of the Big Three has won the last 13 Slams and 56 of the last 67.
   Although Djokovic is six years older than Thiem, he was much fresher in the final. Not only did Djokovic win his previous two matches in straight sets, he had two days to rest to Thiem's one. Thiem, meanwhile, needed 4 hours, 10 minutes to subdue the top-seeded Nadal in four sets in the quarterfinals and 3:42 to top seventh-seeded Alexander Zverev in the semifinals. Overall during the tournament, Thiem spent six more hours on the court than Djokovic before the final.
   Djokovic improved to 17-9 in Grand Slam finals and 7-4 against Thiem. Djokovic had lost four of his last five matches versus the rising star, but three of the losses came on clay.
   Thiem was attempting to become the second Austrian ever and first man born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam men's singles title. His countryman Thomas Muster took the 1995 French Open crown. Thiem dismissed Muster from his – ahem – team during the first week of the Australian Open.
   Both Djokovic and Thiem converted five of 12 break points in the final, committed 57 unforced errors and suffered five double faults. Thiem pounded more aces (13 to nine) and winners (55 to 46), but Djokovic won a higher percentage of points on his first serve (76 to 69) and second delivery (51 to 45). Overall, Djokovic won 157 points to Thiem's 147.

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