Novak Djokovic eyes 'ultimate challenge' of a calendar Grand Slam

Arnold Nichols
January 31, 2019

On the strength of his annihilation of Nadal, a 17-times Grand Slam champion who had entered the final in outrageous form, Djokovic's Australian haul appears set to grow in coming years.

Novak Djokovic eclipsed the six Australian Open titles won by Roy Emerson and Roger Federer to take sole ownership of the men's singles record title haul at Melbourne Park with a resounding 6-3 6-2 6-3 win over Rafael Nadal on Sunday night.

It took Djokovic just 36 minutes, though, to snap that streak after the top seed broke the second seed's very first service game of the match.

What he did to Rafael Nadal in the Rod Laver Arena turned what had been a keen debating point about their relative merits, along with speculation about Roger Federer's longevity, into a confident assertion that Djokovic has moved into another area of excellence.

Djokovic made just nine unforced errors during the two-hour-and-four-minute encounter as Nadal, who was playing in his first competitive tournament since retiring at the US Open past year, was unable to thwart the relentless Serb.

"To be standing now here in front of you today and managing to win this title and three out of four Slams is truly fantastic, " Djokovic said.

Nadal got a taste of his own medicine as Djokovic dictated the rallies giving his opponent no chance to get into his stride, to follow up the great performance he put it in the 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 rout of Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the semifinal.

"We know to play short points against Novak is not easy, because he's one of the best movers on the tour and one of the best returners, but to me (Nadal) has the weapons to make the points shorter".

The Spaniard had an fantastic run over the fortnight - much to everyone's surprise - albeit with a style of play which focused more on smothering his opponents rather than playing in accordance with his usual norm of attritional tennis.

He previously won at Melbourne in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019.

Forced to undergo career-threatening surgery after an early exit from the tournament last year, the 31-year-old fought back tears after the match as he reflected on the past 12 months.

"Well, I got to get Rod Laver in my team in order to achieve that". I would never change anything if I could turn back time because things are just the way they should be.

Rafael Nadal may be chasing a 12th French Open title this year, but Pat Cash believes Novak Djokovic is the favourite to win at Roland Garros. It was also their eighth matchup in a major final. That may be too big an ask in this era, but this win has many of Djokovic's peers speculating that he may ultimately surpass Federer's title count. Switzerland's tennis star Roger Federer dropped from three places down to 6th position in the newly-published Ranking list of the Association of Tennis Professionals. "I will be more experienced with this situation".

Novak Djokovic claimed a record seventh Australian Open crown in devastating style on Sunday as he condemned Rafa Nadal to the most stinging defeat in their long Grand Slam rivalry. This 28th win over Nadal is the most ever by any pro over another. It was hard to do that, but somehow I managed.' While the two protagonists have an aggregate age of 53 they have shown they remain at the peak of their powers, although in Djokovic's case that comes after a prolonged slump in the first half of last season.

But Djokovic left Nadal smirking or gritting his teeth or punching his racket strings, unable to compete at all.

The Serbian world number one said he was motivated to "have a shot" at Federer's record but conceded that it was "still far" away.

"When he's playing that way, I think I needed something else", Nadal said.

"I don't like to say he played unbelievably well because it looks like you find an excuse for yourself".

For Nadal, it's a chance to win his second title at Melbourne Park and his 18th major championship.

"That´s my feeling, just keep playing the way that I am playing and, let´s see, expect to have one of those special days".

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