Novak Djokovic started the 2020 year once again on a high note. Even though the defending Australian Open champion was pushed all the way this time, the Serb managed to battle it out in five sets to earn a 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 win over Dominic Thiem. It was his eighth title in Melbourne and seventeeth Slam title overall. With this win, Novak regained the World No.1 ranking.
The Austrian had been broken early and that looked fatal against an opponent with a 7-0 in Australian Open finals and eight straight sets won. It wouldn’t be that straight forward as he eventually broke back and tied the match at 4-4 in the first. Unfortunately for him, the pressure told and he would double fault on set point in the first set.
He could have been easily forgiven for falling further but this was the impetus for a Thiem comeback, who was firing on all cylinders in taking the next two sets against an ailing and grumpy Djokovic. The Serbian was called for a time violation late in the second set and this set the tone for a downturn in form in a disastrous third set as he went 2-1 down in sets in an Australian Open final for the first time.
Djokovic did have the advantage of serving first in the fourth as he sought to avoid his first final defeat in Melbourne. However, it was Thiem who had the first opportunity to break at 1-1. He failed to do so and this eventually proved fatal as Djokovic broke after a double fault brought up break points of which the first was taken as eventually tied it up at two sets apiece.
It would be Djokovic who broke first as he turned up the pressure on his opponent, who had been striking the ball pretty cleanly throughout many of the previous sets. He hit 1 of his 16 fifth set unforced errors on break point, missing another forehand to help Djokovic go up 2-1. A backhand error in the next would also be the end of his resistance in a tight return game that saw two break points come and go. Thiem would throw all he had left at the second seed in the remaining return games but it was not to be.
A routine hold to 15 confirmed the win for Djokovic, whose record eighth title furthers his place in Melbourne and tennis history.
“Grand Slams are one of the main reasons why I am still competing and still playing a full season, trying to obviously get the historic No. 1. That’s the other big goal. I put myself in this position that is really good at the moment. I’m super happy with the way I started the season. It kind of sets the tone for the rest of the year,” Djokovic said. “I’ve had that privilege to win this big tournament for eight times. To start off the season with a Grand Slam win significantly boosts your confidence and your expectations are quite high for the rest of the season. But whatever happens, this season is already successful.”
Thiem was surely disappointed that he could not strike the final blow during Djokovic’s downturn in the form but the past year shows that it has to be a matter of when rather than if he wins a grand slam. He was going to be a legitimate contender at the remaining three Grand Slams this year, but unfortunately the coronavirus put a stop to Wimbledon. The Roland Garros has been rescheduled to the 20th September, with the US Open taking place in the last week of August (unless there will be further changes).
The Austrian still has his sights set on a slam in the Big 3 era rather than waiting for time to help him out. “These guys brought tennis to a complete new level. They also brought me probably to a much better level, it was easier for sure in a different era to win big titles, that’s 100 per cent. But I’m happy I can compete with these guys on the best level. I really also hope that I win my maiden Slam when they’re still around, because it just counts more.” he said.