Novak Djokovic is once again the Australian Open champion after a crushing victory over Rafael Nadal. He outclassed his biggest rival from start to finish, needing just over two hours to make earn his seventh title in Melbourne with a 6-3 6-2 6-3 win. The result is both the most dominant slam final win for Djokovic and the worst performance in games won by Nadal in a final.
Nadal had been impressive this fortnight and many gave him a strong chance of victory despite Djokovic’s current run of form since his full return from injury. Nadal gave up the break early on with a horrible forehand error and things would not get any better for him from that point onwards. He was playing against a man at the top of his game, executing to near perfection.
He made just 1 unforced error in the second set in comparison to Nadal’s 9, giving the Spaniard very little opportunity to get into the match. The break for Djokovic came at 2-2 after a lob attempt went long and he would follow it up with insurance break after forcing Nadal into netting a backhand on the stretch.
Nadal’s mental toughness is unrivaled but even he looked to be feeling the effects of Djokovic almost toying with him. A perfect drop shot forced a Nadal error into the net once more for a break and that would be it for the match. There was a tiny glimmer of hope when he earned his first break point of the match but some excellent defense from Djokovic followed before Nadal netted the type of backhand you never expect him to miss. The World No.1 earned two break points for the title and the second one would be converted after a backhand long, securing a third straight slam and a 21 match winning streak at slams heading into Paris.
“I really believe I played a great two weeks of tennis. It is going to be a good inspiration for what’s coming. I’m going to keep working hard. I’m going to keep fighting.” Nadal said in his runners-up speech. The Spaniard had not played since the US Open but never looked like he had been away throughout the fortnight. Any suggestion that this season may see him struggling looks to be misguided so far.
For Djokovic, his performance in the final has to be one of the best of his career. The way he dismantled his biggest rival and broke him down was a sight to behold. “It ranks right at the top.” he said when asked where this performance ranks amongst his final performances. “Under the circumstances, playing against Nadal, such an important match, yeah, I mean, it’s amazing. Obviously back-to-back semifinals and finals, 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, visualise myself playing this way. At this level, as I said, under the circumstances, it was truly a perfect match.”
Djokovic will head into the French Open hoping to hold all four slam titles for the second time in his career while Nadal will be seeking revenge for this loss. Much will be made of whether the Serbian can catch Nadal and Federer at 17 and 20 respectively but it will be Paris that has the strongest influence on that. If he can chip away at Nadal’s total while denying him his most likely slam, the chances of besting those two players gets much greater.