Novak Djokovic maintained his grip on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup by winning his ninth Australian Open title and reinforcing his standing as the man to beat in Melbourne having now always won when in a final on the Rod Laver Arena.
It has been emotionally one on the toughest tournaments I’ve ever had in my life – without a doubt Novak Djokovic
In the process the Serb has held back the pressure being generated by the next generation as he basically dismantled Daniil Medvedev for his 7-5 6-2 6-2 victory secured after just one hour and 54-minutes.
In the event it became a one-sided affair to the disappointment of many who were expecting a much tighter contest between two highly accomplished players.
But as Djokovic pointed out in an interview earlier in the week, he wouldn’t be handing over the trophy, stating “I’m going to make them (the next generation) work their ass off for it.”
On this occasion he was simply too strong for the Russian, his junior by some eight years who was on a 20 match-winning streak, for, after the first set, he struggled to match the consistency, accuracy and serving efficiency of the world number one.
Medvedev strived to produce the sort of form that had brought him success over the past few months and was clearly frustrated as he smashed his racket during the course of the second set.
Unfortunately for him, there was no denying Djokovic who from the start, showed his intention by sweeping into a 3-0 lead.
The gauntlet had been thrown and was picked up as Medvedev retaliated by levelling with a similar run of three games.
The signs were good that a real contest was brewing with several hard fought, lung-busting exchanges running to 20 shots or more being fought out.
Glimspes of the standard to which both players can play, were evident but it was the defensive play of the Serb which eventually edged the first set his way.
With a blistering backhand pass, he earned himself three break points in the 12th game converting on the third when the fourth seed found the net with a forehand after 42-minutes.
The two opening games of the second saw the pair exchange breaks as they jockeyed for early control which eventually Djokovic gained two games later following a poor service game from Medvedev.
He consolidated his position despite the noise from the crowd which had to be repeatedly told to be quiet. One of the disturbances was a refugee protest which involved the removal of two people.
While Medvedev hung on his mistakes were mounting as was his frustration resulting in a smashed racket and a subsequent code violation when he again lost his serve to fall 5-2 behind.
Djokovic was now in complete control. He was winning the exchanges regularly as Medvedev’s game crumbled — as did his focus — as he continually glanced to his box in exasperation.
A three-game run at the start of the third set saw him within sight of the winning line and it proved enough of a margin for him to stroll over it, clinching it on his first match-point providing him with the opportunity to fall on his back at his amazing ninth victory.
It was a second Grand Slam final defeat for the 25-year-old Russian His first loss came at the hands of Rafa Nadal who he had pushed to five sets after trailing 2-sets to love, in 2019 at the US Open.
Djokovic, who picked up an abdominal injury in the third round which he led many to believe was a possible tear, was never hampered in anyway in his following matches, and there certainly was no sign of it in the final.
The Serb has now won 18 Grand Slam titles and is just two behind all-time leaders Nadal and Roger Federer, and as the youngest of the trio, should surpass his two rivals over the coming years.
Speaking on Eurosport following the presentation ceremony, Djokovic was reminded of his comment about not being ready to hand over to the next generation.
“That was a risky statement at the time,” he admitted.
“I think I deserved to say something confident about myself and my game – and my record in finals
“Nevertheless, I didn’t mean any disrespect to Daniil, or anybody that is part of the next generation. Obviously, they’re going to slowly but surely take over the top of the men’s game.
“It’s not happening yet, people have been talking about it like it’s already happened, but the top spots are still held by Rafa, myself (but) Daniil is at the forefront of the Next Generation.
“Rafa, Roger, myself are still trying to give them a hard time and I think the experience of playing in many major finals maybe helped me tonight to start off the match better and I came out of the blocks very solid, with a clear game plan.”
“It has been emotionally one on the toughest tournaments I’ve ever had in my life – without a doubt” he added in reference to having to quarantine and then play through his injury
“I had to really lock myself in the shell, really avoid any distractions and focus all my action into recovery, into mental preparation.
“I kind of pleasantly surprised myself with the ability to recover and ability to stay tough when it mattered most. I’ll take a lot of positives from this tournament, but also I’ll also take a break because I need one!”
Despite his initial criticism of quarantine conditions and his belief that players will not want to continue doing it to play, during his on-court presentation, Djokovic praised organisers for making sure the competition went ahead during a global pandemic, the majority of which was played in front of fans.
“It wasn’t easy, it was very challenging on many different levels, but you know, I think they should be proud of themselves for what they have put together and allowed us to come to Australia and be standing here – thank you very much for making this possible.”
Despite the straight-sets result, Medvedev was still able to find his sense of humour: “It’s never easy to speak after you’ve just lost in the final of a Grand Slam, but I’m going to try my best, better than I did on court hopefully.
“I really wanted to make this match longer and more entertaining for you, but today was not the day.”
The time will come, of that everyone can be assured