Novak Djokovic clinched his eighth Australian Open title as he overturned a two set to one deficit to defeat the Austrian challenger Dominic Thiem in the final.
Djokovic came back from the proverbial dead to win 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the stroke of four hours in the match to successfully defend the title he had won last year. The Serb will now take on the mantle of the world number one ranking as well from Rafael Nadal, a player who was the finalist at the Australian Open last year and had won just eight games against him in that title-decider.
While the result was no different as far as Djokovic was concerned, the match threw up many twists and turns and saw the Serb add a 17th Grand Slam title to his career list.
It was the kind of the start one would have expected from the world number two as Djokovic raced off to the first three games of the match including a break in the second game. Given Djokovic’s performance in the matches leading up to this one, it was barely a surprise and the talks on social media had already begun veering towards the number of games Thiem might win in the match.
Thiem got on to the board with his first game win in the fourth, but even that came with some difficulties as Djokovic took it to deuce. The one-sided nature of the contest continued with Djokovic winning the fifth game to 15 and then taking another Thiem serve to deuce.
There are Austrian fans with t-shirts reading “Carpe Thiem”. 👌👌👌#AusOpen
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) February 2, 2020
Suddenly, however, Thiem found an opening in the seventh game with two break-points set up by a 24-shot rally. Djokovic saved one but lost the next and very soon it was back on serve at 4-4.
Djokovic held on to make it 5-4 and it looked like a tie-breaker beckoned given the return of Thiem’s confidence. The Serb had different ideas though, and aided by Thiem’s double-fault, he took control of the set on his second set-point.
What was interesting to note was the errors were mounting for Djokovic, who had nine winners to 14 of the unforced errors in that set. And that seemed to catch up with him in the second.
While the champion opened with an easy hold, Thiem immediately broke him in the third game, getting three opportunities to do that in it. A couple of holds later, Djokovic had a chance to break Thiem back and level things off but the Austrian stepped it up and went 4-2 up.
Next game though, Thiem failed to match up to Djokovic’s energy and was broken by a fully dialled-in Serb who levelled it 4-4 and the writing seemed to be on the wall yet again. Thiem wasn’t going to go away that easily though and he was aided by Djokovic in that quest.
A double-fault allowed Thiem to take a 30-15 lead on Djokovic’s serve at which point the world number two was given a code violation for being too slow. An unforced error allowed Thiem two break-points when Djokovic was given his second violation for which he lost his first serve – and his cool – resulting in the irate Serb missing a forehand and handing the break back to his opponent. On his way to his seat, Djokovic murmured to the chair umpire:
“Great job, man. You made yourself famous. Well done.”
“You made yourself famous. Well done.” -Novak Djokovic blames umpire’s hunger for fame for… the serve clock running out?
He also touched the umpire’s foot several times. He shouldn’t do that.#AusOpen
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) February 2, 2020
This second time, Thiem breezed through his hold to clinch the set and make it 1-1.
By the looks of things, the exchange seemed to have affected the second seed, as Thiem broke him immediately first up in the third set. And if that wasn’t enough, a hold later for Thiem, he made it two breaks in a row to go 4-0 up in the third set.
Djokovic finally showed some signs of a fight in the eighth game as Thiem looked to serve to win the set. He prevented Thiem on two set-points and then had his own break point which he muffed before two successive unforced errors gave Thiem the set and a shock lead.
Thiem had his break-point chance in the third game of the set but once he had missed it, Djokovic clawed back into it with a solid performance.
At 4-3 in the fourth set, Djokovic had his first couple of break-points thanks to an easy missed chance at 15-0, and the Serb took the second opportunity to serve for the set. And he did that with aplomb, winning it to love to push the set into the decider.
With the Serb’s confidence returning, and Thiem looking more and more ragged towards the end of the fourth, the start of the fifth was expected to be crucial. And it was Djokovic who drew first blood with a break in the third game of the set.
Thiem had a fighting chance to break back immediately after that but Djokovic fought off two break-points to clinch the all-important game. Things went on serve after that leaving Djokovic to serve out for the match to win it in five, thrilling ones.