Djokovic wins Aussie Open
Nole comes back, beats Thiem for 17th Slam title
MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic was looking weary and worn down. He felt dizzy and trailed Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open final — miscues mounting, deficit growing.
Djokovic did what he does, though. He refused to lose, waited for a chance to pounce and found his best tennis when absolutely necessary. Even threw in a wrinkle, serve-and-volleying twice when facing break point.
Regaining his stamina and strokes, and showing some gutsy creativity, Djokovic came back to edge Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 Sunday night for an eighth Australian Open title, second in a row, and 17th Grand Slam trophy overall.
“I was on the brink of losing the match. Dominic ... disrupted my rhythm in my game at one point. He was a better player,” Djokovic said. “Probably one point — and one shot — separated us tonight.”
Nonetheless, Djokovic improved his record in semifinals and finals at Melbourne Park to 16-0 and assured himself of returning to No. 1 in the rankings, replacing Rafael
No other man in the history of tennis has won this hard-court tournament more than six times. Only Roger Federer, with 20, and Nadal, with 19, have won more men’s Grand Slam singles trophies than Djokovic.
“Amazing achievement. Unreal what you’re doing throughout all these years,” said the fifth-seeded Thiem, who is 0-3 in major finals. “You and also two other guys, I think you brought men’s tennis to a complete new level.”
Both finalists spoke about the devastating wildfires that have killed dozens of people and millions of animals around Australia. Djokovic also mentioned the recent deaths of NBA star Kobe Bryant and one of his daughters in a helicopter crash.
Addressing Thiem, Djokovic said: “I am sure you will definitely get one of the Grand Slam trophies. More than one.”
A little more than six months after saving a pair of championship points against Federer en route to winning a five-set Wimbledon final, Djokovic again showed that he can’t ever be counted out, coming back from two-sets-to-one behind in a Grand Slam title match for the first time.
It didn’t come easily for the 32-year-old from Serbia. He lost six games in a row in one stretch to Thiem, who plays a similar baseline game and eliminated Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Djokovic visited by a doctor and trainer in the third set and, desperate to hydrate, guzzled bottles of
water and energy drink. He lectured the chair umpire about time violations.
“My energy dropped significantly,” Djokovic said at his news conference, sipping an anti-oxidant drink instead of the Champagne offered by tournament director Craig Tiley.
This was not the dominant Djokovic who made a hard-to-believe total of nine unforced errors during his straight-set triumph over Nadal in the final a year ago. Djokovic eclipsed that total in the first set alone Sunday, finishing with 57.
It was a physical test offering plenty of entertaining exchanges, with 61 points lasting at least nine shots apiece.
“Very demanding,” Thiem said.
“Of course,” he said, “I just feel a lot of emptiness right now.”
At two key moments, Djokovic abandoned his usual grind-points-out script and went on the attack, rushing to the net after a serve when facing a break point — first, at 2-1 in the fourth set, then again at 2-1 in the fifth. Paid off both times. “Not characteristic of me,” Djokovic said. “Kind of all-ornothing.”
Making a charge as his less-experienced foe faltered, Djokovic broke to lead 5-3 in the fourth set, helped by a sloppy volley into the net tape, a double-fault and a bad forehand by Thiem.
A break early in the fifth helped Djokovic clutch the silver Australian Open trophy he also won in 2008, 2011-13, 2015-16 and 2019.
He adds that haul to his five titles from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open and one from the French Open.
Thiem, an Austrian who is 26, was the runner-up to Nadal at Roland Garros each of the past two years and was again trying to become the first man born in the 1990s to win a major singles title.
17-TIME CHAMP Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after defeating Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the men’s final of the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday.