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Djokovic outlasts Nadal in Melbourne thriller

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Originally published on: 17/02/12 11:31

Novak Djokovic followed one of the most incredible seasons the game has ever seen by winning the greatest match of his life in the dawn of 2012.

Just when it looked as if Rafael Nadal was finally ready to overturn a run of six straight defeats in finals, just when the Mallorcan appeared to have the world No.1 cornered for a killer right-hook; Djokovic somehow ducked out and clobbered Nadal from behind to clinch his fifth Grand Slam title.

The Serb duelled with the 10-time major winner over 369 points for an exhausting five hours and 53 minutes in the longest Grand Slam final in history, but you could take any notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ out of the equation as both men appeared capable of enduring endless pain. Indeed, Nadal finished the match with bleeding feet, but never once hinted at a problem, as rallies in excess of 25-shots continued to flow until Djokovic finally clinched victory at 1:37am.

“I’m playing against one of the greatest players ever,” said Djokovic after finally emerging triumphant. “The player that is so mentally strong, and he always comes up with his best game and best shots at the right moments.”

Except for one decisive moment, perhaps. At 4-2 up in the fifth set, after he had exploded back to life in the fourth by recovering from 3-4, 0-40 down on serve, Nadal skewed a sitter of a backhand into the tramlines.

Ultimately, it was to be the last crucial game changer in a match that had been littered with them. Djokovic had a whole lot left to do – one 32 shot rally left him gasping for breath and flat on his back – but he would not be defeated after that redemption and ultimately survived for an incredible victory.

“We live for these matches,” said an exhausted, but elated, Djokovic. ”We’re trying to dedicate all our life to this sport to come to the situation where we play a six hour match for a Grand Slam title.”

Nadal, despite the gut-wrenching defeat, echoed his new great rival’s sentiments.

“That’s nice to be there fighting, you know, trying to go to the limit, bring your body to the limit of his chances,” said Nadal. “I always said it’s good to suffer.”

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