Novak Djokovic has Grand Slam title No 17 on his mind at this year’s Australian Open
Novak Djokovic is the wizard of the Australian Open as he aims to win a record eighth title in Melbourne against Dominic Thiem on Sunday.
Djokovic delivered a masterclass in hardcourt tennis to beat Rafael Nadal in ruthless fashion to seal a third successive Grand Slam success and 15th major of his career last year.
The Serb went on to claim a 16th Grand Slam at Wimbledon in the summer – his fifth title at the All England Club. But it’s Melbourne where he at his most destructive and he’s back in the final where Thiem stands in his way of winning an eighth crown.
We look back at his remarkable record in Australia starting with his very first Grand Slam in 2008…
2008 – Maiden Slam
The 20-year-old from Belgrade was brilliant as well as ruthlessly efficient as he firstly ended home favourite Lleyton Hewitt’s dreams in the fourth round before cruising past David Ferrer in the last eight.
He then crushed then world No 1 and 12-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer in straight sets to set up a meeting against big-hitting Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
In the final, Tsonga, 22, came out swinging and slam-dunking with a Francophile Rod Laver Arena firmly on his side.
Despite taking the opening set, Djokovic showed a steely determination to fight back and seal a 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-2) victory to become the first Serb to win a Grand Slam singles title and end a run of 11 straight majors won by Federer or Nadal.
2011 – Simply irrepressible
Djokovic bombarded a downcast defending champion Federer with a hugely-impressive display to reach a second Australian Open final where his good friend Andy Murray was waiting for him, having reached his third major final.
It was to be another defeat for the Scot though as the irrepressible Djokovic ran riot. He was outstandingly consistent, breaking Murray seven times out of 18 opportunities as he rallied to an impressive 6-4 6-2 6-3 success.
“It has been a tough period for our people in Serbia. We are trying every single day to present our country in the best possible way, so this is for my country Serbia,” said Djokovic.
2012 – Battle of endurance
The Serb returned a year later where he won a battle of endurance against Rafael Nadal in one of the most brutal Grand Slam finals in history.
In a match lasting five hours and 53 minutes, it was certainly a sweat-drenched marathon. After less than 48 hours rest following an epic four hours and 50-minute semi-final win against Andy Murray, Djokovic was ready for more of the same.
The courage and the commitment shown by both men was quite remarkable in a five-set classic, which Djokovic won 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5.
A 32-shot rally late in the final set summed up an awe-inspiring contest that ended at 1.37am on a muggy Monday morning in Melbourne.
2013 – Hat-trick of titles
Djokovic became the first man to win three consecutive Australian Open titles in the Open era after beating Murray 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 6-2.
The first two sets alone took two hours and 13 minutes before blisters took their toll on the Scot’s movement around the court and Djokovic took control, winning eight out of the next nine games to move ahead and then the Briton’s serve unravelled.
After being presented with the trophy by one of only two other men to have won three titles in Melbourne – Andre Agassi – six-time major winner Djokovic said: “What a joy, it’s an incredible feeling winning this trophy once more, it’s my favourite Grand Slam, my most successful Grand Slam, I love this court.”
2015 – Murray dominance
Stan Wawrinka ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in 2014, but he walked away with his fifth title on Rod Laver Arena a year later in a contest with Murray that was terrifically enthralling. The result was just the beginning of a truly phenomenal year for the elasticated Serb, who continued his dominance over the Brit.
Djokovic exuded his remarkable powers of recovery when looking to be a spent force physically at the start of the third set. He somehow recovered to win 36 of the last 49 points (12 of the last 13 games) as Murray capitulated to lose 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-0.
2016 – Imperious again
The world No 1 again began the season in perfect fashion as he condemned Murray to a fifth defeat in a Melbourne final.
Djokovic was imperious as he claimed the opening set in just 30 minutes and despite a much-improved showing from Murray in the second and third sets, it was Djokovic who claimed a record-equalling sixth triumph down under with a 6-1 7-5 7-6 (7-3) victory – drawing him level with Roy Emerson.
The Aussie legend was not in attendance but Djokovic was quick to pay tribute to Emerson as well as the watching legends: “I’m extremely honoured to be mentioned alongside the legends of our sport like Mr Rod Laver,” he said.
“It’s also a great honour to equal the record to one of the greatest players to have ever played this game [Roy Emerson].”
2019 – Record-breaking performance
Pre-match predictions had suggested there might be a repeat of the 2012 showpiece encounter between Djokovic and Nadal, after both players reached the final in devastating fashion. Djokovic had other ideas.
In the pair’s 53rd meeting, Djokovic secured his first straight-sets victory over his great rival in a Slam final as he took the Spaniard apart to win 6-3 6-2 6-3 in two hours and four minutes – to become the first man ever to win three consecutive majors on three separate occasions.