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Ninth AO title for supreme Novak, Medvedev humbled

  • Gillian Tan

Novak Djokovic has further etched himself into tennis history, clinching a third Australian Open title in succession and record-extending ninth in all with a comprehensive 7-5 6-2 6-2 victory over Daniil Medvedev. 

MORE: Djokovic sticks to familiar Melbourne script

"I would like to thank this court, I would like to thank Rod Laver Arena, I love you each year more and more - the love affair keeps going," Djokovoic said, arms wrapped around the coveted Norman Brookes Challenge Cup once again, describing his AO2021 campaign, which featured an abdominal injury, as a rollercoaster. 

MORE: Djokovic v Medvedev match stats

The win, which took 1 hours and 53 minutes, takes the world no.1’s total Grand Slam count to 18, two shy of the 20 held by rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

MORE: Analysis - How Novak dismantled Medvedev

Playing in cool conditions on Rod Laver Arena, the 25 year-old Medvedev, contesting his second major final, was broken in his opening service game. 

The top seeded Serb consolidated the break for a 3-0 lead, at which point things were looking bleak for his Russian opponent, who had won just three points.  

But the fourth seed played himself into the match. In the fifth game, he won a high-intensity 28 stroke rally that Djokovic tried to end with a failed drop shot that set him up with break point opportunities – the first which Medvedev captured after a Djokovic smash landed straight in the net. 

Suddenly, the match was back on serve and a resurgent Medvedev, the youngest Australian Open men’s singles finalist since Djokovic in 2012, held to love.

An enthralled crowd that included AO2020 women’s singles champion Sofia Kenin were captivated as cat-and-mouse exchanges ensued, with the 33 year-old Djokovic mixing in slice backhands and drop shots with his trademark groundstrokes, tactics the Serb employed in his AO2019 fourth round win over Medvedev. 

Daniil Medvedev and his racquet copped a pounding on centre court

But the Russian, brimming with confidence thanks to a 20-match winning streak that included 12 top 10 players including Djokovic, hung tough and delivered gasp-inducing winners as well as five aces in the opening set.

In the twelfth game, seeking to avoid a tie-break, Djokovic ramped up his intensity, producing a stunning backhand passing winner down the line to set up three set points. 

Though his Russian rival saved a pair, including one with a 214kmh unreturnable serve, his fastest of the match to that point, a rogue forehand error cost him the set.

The pair exchanged breaks to start the second set as Djokovic continued to challenge Medvedev’s court-coverage abilities, drawing his younger opponent in with drop volleys and moving him side to side from the baseline. 

The world no. 1’s efforts were rewarded with a break in the fourth game which he consolidated for a 4-1 lead.

Still, it wasn’t all one way traffic, with Medvedev pushing Djokovic to deuce in the seventh game. 

But frustrated with his inability to manufacture a break point from that juncture, the Russian smashed a racquet and was broken in the next game as Djokovic seized the second set.

The top seed served up a pair of double faults to start the third – his first of the match – and found himself down two break points, but, as has been the case countless times in Melbourne, dug his way out of trouble. 

The Serb then put his foot on the accelerator, breaking and consolidating for a 3-0 lead, a symmetrical start to the opening set.

Novak Djokovic silenced the doubters with a thrilling performance

Though Medvedev willed himself – and the crowd – into the match, the Russian couldn't do much more than raise his hands in helplessness time and time again as Djokovic’s relentless, wall-like dominance showed no signs of cracking. 

Rising to the familiar occasion, Djokovic pounced as the Russian served to stay in the match at 2-5, landing a remarkable overhead volley winner on championship point before collapsing to the ground in celebration.

MORE: Medvedev's reality check

The top seed described Medvedev as one of the "toughest players I ever faced in my life" and paid tribute to the Russian's promising future.

"It's a matter of time when you're going to hold a Grand Slam, that's for sure ... if you don't mind waiting [a] few more years," he laughed. 

Djokovic celebrates with coach Goran Ivanisevic

The victory, his third consecutive in Melbourne, makes Djokovic the first man in the Open Era to win three Australian Open titles after turning 30 and he joins Nadal atop the list of Open Era players for most slam wins aged 30 or older, with six apiece. 

It also preserves his astounding unbeaten record in semifinals and finals in Melbourne, and will leave Medvedev waiting a little longer in his quest to become the third Russian man to win a major.