Djokovic wins spectacular final
Originally published on: 29/01/12 14:50
Novak Djokovic defended his Australian Open crown after getting the better of Rafael Nadal for the third straight time in a Grand Slam final in a scarcely believable contest.
The incomparable Serb walks away with $2.3million Australian Dollars and mirrors the start to the year he achieved in his phenomenal 2011 season after edging Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5 in the most physically punishing final ever seen at the Australian Open.
The world No.1 claimed his fifth Grand Slam title after swinging a remarkable edge-of-the-seat encounter in a record five hours and 53 minutes after breaking Nadal in the 11th game of the fifth set for his seventh straight victory over the Mallorcan.
The Belgrade native had been close to victory in the fourth set after holding three break points in the eighth game but Nadal fought valiantly to recover from 0-40 down and deny the world No.1 the chance to serve for the match. A brief rain delay ensued, leaving Djokovic to stew on his missed opportunity.
With the roof closed Nadal hung in to force a fourth set tiebreak. The stats found marginal favour with the world No.1, who had a 141-88 career record in tiebreaks as opposed to Djokovic’s 120-70 prior record in shootouts – and he somehow added another to the tally.
Djokovic took two points off the Spaniard’s serve on the sixth and seventh points and held serve for a 5-3 advantage, but two unforced errors on the forehand let Nadal back in. He held for 6-5 and, after forcing another Djokovic error on set point, fell to his knees and pumped his fists as if he had won the tournament after rounding out the set.
The pair had never gone to five sets in any of their previous 29 meetings and their first match to go the distance couldn’t have come at a worse time for Djokovic.
With the Serb still feeling the effects of his punishing four-hour-50-minute semi-final with Andy Murray, Nadal – even with his right knee strapped tight – appeared the fresher. Come the sixth game, he clinched a break for a 4-2 lead, but with victory in sight, Djokovic broke straight back.
At 4-4, Djokovic fell flat on his back after losing a 31 shot rally that was barely comprehendible five hours and 20 minutes into a match contested at such intensity.
Come the 11th game, Djokovic finally secured the break that stuck, finishing an epic Australian Open final on his first championship point with an inside out forehand winner.