Cloud 9: Novak Djokovic wins 9th Australian Open, 18th Grand Slam

Cloud 9: Novak Djokovic wins 9th Australian Open, 18th Grand Slam

Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning the final against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday. REUTERS

Melbourne, February 21

Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open dominance is intact — nine finals, nine championships.

And he keeps gaining on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam standings, now up to 18 overall, two away from the men’s record shared by his two rivals.

Novak Djokovic

It has been definitely emotionally the most challenging Grand Slam that I ever had with everything that was happening, injury, off-the-court stuff, quarantines

Djokovic used superb serving and his usual relentless returning and baseline excellence to grab 11 of 13 games in one stretch and beat a visibly frustrated Daniil Medvedev 7-5 6-2 6-2 today for a third trophy in a row at Melbourne Park.

The 33-year-old from Serbia improved to 18-0 combined in semifinals and finals on the hard courts of the Australian Open.

Looking at the bigger picture, Djokovic has won six of the last 10 Major tournaments and is assured of remaining at No. 1 in the rankings at least through March 8. That will give him 311 weeks in the top spot, breaking a mark held by Federer.

The No. 4-ranked Medvedev was appearing in his second Grand Slam final — he was the runner-up to Nadal at the 2019 US Open — but is still left trying to collect his first such championship.

Djokovic ended the 25-year-old Russian’s 20-match winning streak. Medvedev also had won his previous 12 matches against top-10 opponents.

But going up against Djokovic in Australia is a much different challenge.

By the second set, as things slipped away, Medvedev bounced his white racquet off the blue court, then absolutely destroyed it with a full-on spike. By the third, he kept looking up at his coach with palms up as if to ask, “What can I possibly do here?”

It is a familiar sentiment in this stadium, on this court, at this tournament. Federer, Nadal, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem — all Grand Slam champions, all defeated by Djokovic in semifinals or finals in Melbourne.

Novak Djokovic

I love you each year more and more. It’s been a love affair that keeps growing.

So place the nine triumphs in Australia alongside five at Wimbledon, three at the US Open and one at the French Open for Djokovic.

The math looks good for Djokovic. He is about a year younger than Nadal and six and a half years younger than Federer, who turns 40 in August. Federer hasn’t competed in more than a year after having two knee operations but is expected to turn to the tour next month.

No-le, No-le!

On a cool, cloudy evening, an event delayed three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic concluded with an announced attendance of 7,426 at Rod Laver Arena. Spectators were barred entirely for five days earlier in the tournament because of a local Covid-19 lockdown, but they eventually were let back in at 50% capacity.

A majority favored Djokovic on Sunday, so plenty of choruses of his nickname rang out — “No-le, No-le, No-le!” — and Serbian flags dotted the stands, flapping in a swirling breeze. — AP

18-0 Djokovic’s win-loss record in the semifinals and finals on the hard courts of the Australian Open

6 Djokovic has won six of the last 10 Major tournaments

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