Novak Djokovic powered past Daniil Medvedev to win a record-extending ninth Australian Open title and third in a row in front of a fiery Melbourne crowd on Sunday. It is the most anyone has ever won any single tennis major, and the Serbian player's latest victory means he now sits two wins behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who both have 20 Grand Slam titles.
"Rod Laver Arena, I love you each year more and more," Djokovic said after his latest win. "The love affair keeps going. Thank you so much."
The champion, 33, started as nervelessly as you'd expect, given his record Down Under, and raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set before Medvedev surged back to parity, firing ace after ace.
The pair then slugged it out for the remainder of a relentless opening set, Djokovic notably keen to draw his opponent to the net, before the Serbian produced a brilliant break in game 12 to seize the initiative.
Djokovic would not let it go, capitalizing on a couple of ragged service games early in the second set to race to a commanding lead. Medvedev lost any foothold he had in the match and his frustration became apparent when he smashed his racket at the back of the court after game seven. The rest then felt inevitable, Djokovic wrapping up the second set with a booming forehand service return down the middle of the court.
At that point, it was easy to forget that Djokovic had endured a fraught start to the tournament. His open letter to the organizers regarding the quarantine conditions faced by players was criticized by a number of his fellow pros, including Australian Nick Kyrgios, who branded Djokovic a "tool." The Serbian argued his words had been misconstrued and also expressed fears he may miss out through injury.
Though the crowd were not all against him, the off-court actions of the increasingly divisive world No. 1 seemed to bother a few of of those in an 85%-full arena. At one point in that dominant second set, Djokovic put his fingers to his lips to try and calm a crowd, sections of which had turned against him.
The Australian Open has been one of the first major international sporting events to welcome fans since the coronavirus pandemic begun — despite the interruption of a five-day lockdown in Victoria, the state in which Melbourne lies.
Though some in the stands may not have got the result they wanted, there's little argument that they witnessed a player at the top of his game. With Federer and Nadal both older, Djokovic could easily surpass both in an era dominated by the big three in the men's game.
That feeling of inevitability that came to the fore in set two, very briefly flickered with Djokovic's first double fault of the match in the third set opener. But Medvedev failed to take advantage of two break points and the aura around his opponent quickly returned.
It was all too much for Medvedev, who later described his opponent as "like a god to me," and the 25-year-old's game started to unravel along with his mental fortitude on the court. The Russian was swinging from the hip but had clearly lost belief against his unwavering opponent. He isn't the first, and he's unlikely to be the last to suffer such a fate against Djokovic, who wrapped up Australian Open number nine with a convincing overhead that summed up a dominant display.