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Djokovic crushes Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to win record seventh Australian Open title

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 27 Jan 2019
  • Novak Djokovic wins the 2019 Australian Open title
  • Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to win a record seventh Australian Open title
  • Djokovic only lost 13 points on serve in a pristine performance to move clear of Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slams
Novak Djokovic celebrates victory over Rafael Nadal in the final of the 2019 Australian Open (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic crushes Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to win a record seventh Australian Open title.

There would be no repeat of the epic five-set 2012 final as a pristine Novak Djokovic utterly dismantled a hapless Rafael Nadal, dropping just eight games as he won 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in just two hours and 4 minutes.

Nadal hadn't dropped a set on the way to the final, just the second time in his career he had put together such a dominant run outside of Roland Garros, and had only had his serve broken twice. But that swiftly began to reflect poorly on the returning capabilities of his previous opponents rather than the miraculous powers of his revamped first serve, as Djokovic broke him five times on his way to victory, while saving the only break point he faced himself.

Djokovic speaks, watched by a downcast Nadal (DAVID GRAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Nadal was bidding to become just the second man in the Open Era to win all four majors at least twice, but it was Djokovic who inked his name deeper in the record books. The Serb is now the all-time leader in Australian Open titles, surpassing Roger Federer and Roy Emerson's total of six. He also moved past Pete Sampras's benchmark of 14 total Grand Slam titles, meaning that he, Nadal (17) and Roger Federer (20) occupy the top three spots on the all-time leaderboard.

And with 37-year-old Federer not even making it to the later stages of the Australian Open, Djokovic's comprehensive - to say the least - defeat of Nadal is an unmistakable warning to his rivals that their seemingly unassailable titles are not at all safe from being overtaken.

Djokovic stamped his authority on the match instantly, winning 12 of the first 13 points as he raced to a 3-0 lead, and by the time he held for 4-1 - having had a point for a double break on the way - he had won all 12 of points played on serve. 

Whether Djokovic's brilliance or Nadal's mediocrity (by his own high standards) was responsible for the one-sided scoreline will be a vexed question and a subject of debate for days and probably years to come. Probably the truth is that a combination of both was involved. Djokovic was untouchably good and made it difficult to impossible for Nadal to play his best, but Nadal was also struggling in a way we haven't seen so far at this tournament, with conditions much cooler and windier - a struggle exemplified by a total air swing on a forehand in the seventh game.

Nadal would keep fighting to get back into the match, holding to love for 3-5 with some great backhands and even winning a point on Djokovic's serve as the Serb tried to close out the set. But the world no. 1 won a 21-shot rally to create two set points and immediately converted.

Safe to say it was not Rafael Nadal's night (DAVID GRAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Nadal's forehand down the line has been a big talking point of this tournament, with the Spaniard hitting it at a tremendous level, but he seemed curiously reluctant to use it in the first set, preferring oddly to go cross-court to the Djokovic backhand - a fatal error. When he finally did go down the line with it, it helped him get out of a tough service game to open the second set, but in the next game a rattled Nadal hit an unnecessary volley off a Djokovic defensive pass that was clearly going long and netted it for 15-30. Nadal produced one of his finest V-plays of the night to get to 30-30 and held when he wrongfooted the Serb, but it showed that he was, if not nervous, at least unsure what to do in the face of Djokovic's brilliance.

He would be broken in the next game, and although Djokovic's game to consolidate was a lengthy one, with the Serb pushed to deuce for the first time, after almost seven minutes a forehand error let Nadal off the hook - and Djokovic followed up with a double-break lead before serving out the set to love with a trio of aces.

As the clock ticked towards 80 minutes, the stats looked extremely bleak for Nadal. Djokovic had made just four unforced errors in the first two sets, compared to 20 for the Spaniard - and was out-winnering him 22 to 14, as well. Most damningly, Nadal, who had won 81% of points on his first serve throughout the tournament, was at just 50% (he would finish the match at 51%).

At 1-1 in the third, Djokovic produced what was probably the most extraordinary, brutal shot of a night that was full of them, an inside-out cross-court forehand return winner which should not have been possible. It was no surprise that a rattled Nadal double-faulted for 15-30 and was broken two shots later as Djokovic yanked him into net with a short slice.

There would be one last faint gasp of hope for Nadal to at least make the scoreline respectable and avoid his first ever straight-sets, as Djokovic's level midway through the third set began to drop from the inhuman to the merely excellent: Serving at 3-2, he made two backhand unforced errors and missed an off-balance forehand for the first break point of the match against his serve. But his defense on the next point was typically impenetrable, and Nadal netted a backhand, with Djokovic going on to hold for 4-2. 

Djokovic is reunited with the Australian Open trophy  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
It was all over three games later, as Djokovic opened up a 15-30 lead on Nadal's serve at 3-5 with a pounding backhand down the line before creating two championship points with a forehand winner into the corner. A rare unforced error off the backhand wing for the Serb saw the first go by, but Nadal couldn't find a first serve on either championship point, and on the second, he put a backhand long to formalize a defeat that will go down as the worst he's ever suffered in a major final.

While neither player was affected by injury in this final, its shadow loomed long over it. Nadal's dominant run to the final overshadowed the fact that he was playing his first tournament since last year's US Open, while Djokovic had been underdoing surgery 12 months ago.

Nadal struck a battling note in his runner's-up speech despite looking slightly shell-shocked, congratulating Djokovic on an 'amazing level of tennis' before vowing to bounce back.

'It has been a very emotional two weeks for me, even if tonight wasn't my best day, I played someone who played much better than me tonight,' Nadal continued. 'I have been going through some tough moments ... Even if tonight wasn't my best night, to me it's so important to be where I am today again. I really believe I played a great two weeks of tennis. That will be a great inspiration to me for what is coming.

'I'm going to keep fighting hard, keep working hard to be a better player, to keep fighting for the most important things. This tournament has been tough for me in terms of injuries and in terms of opponents, like tonight!'

Djokovic opened his winner's speech by praising his opponent, saying: 'You are showing to me and to our colleagues what is the definition of a fighting spirit.'

He added:

'Sorry, I'm just trying to contemplate on the journey on the past 12 months. I've been through a surgery and a pretty serious injury myself, I had the surgery exactly 12 months ago today and to be standing here ... it's truly amazing, I am speechless.'

'Speechless': That's how the calibre of his performance left everyone - from his opponent, to his rivals, to his fans. Is Novak Djokovic not just back to his best, but somehow better than ever? We could be in for a truly extraordinary year.

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Djokovic crushes Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to win record seventh Australian Open title

There would be no repeat of their epic 2012 five-set battle as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal faced off in the 2019 Australian Open final - a ruthless Djokovic handed Nadal the Spaniard his first ever straight-sets defeat in a Grand Slam final, winning 6-3, 6-2, 6-3

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