Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open: A Champion's Tale

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The TT writer and editors have had some time to reflect on the 2016 Australian Open. This is the first in a 3 part series about the fates of this year’s top three seeds. In these articles we will detail their history at the Australian Open, discuss their recent performances, and assess their chances for future titles at the year’s first slam. A new article will be published daily in order of seeding. Tomorrow look for: Andy Murray at the Australian Open: A Struggle Down Under

The Players call Australian open “Happy Slam.” But it is fair to say that for Novak Djokovic, it is the happiest of all the slams. The 2016 Australian Open was Novak’s 12 appearance at Melbourne park. In his previous 11 appearances he has won the prestigious Norman Brookes trophy 5 times. With this year’s victory over Andy Murray, Djokovic currently has the most number of Australian Open titles in open era, Roy Emerson has also won the title 6 times before 1968. Djokovic’s accomplishment eclipses the achievements of Roger Federer and Andre Agassi, both of whom won the title 4 times each.

Where it all started:

2008 AO men’s singles semifinal. Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic. A repeat of the previous year’s  U.S. Open men’s singles final. Federer had won that match in 3 tight sets; 7-6(4) 7-6(2) 6-4. After the match ended a relieved Federer said during presentation ceremony “He definitely deserves more than straight sets.”

Djokovic was only 20 years old and his impressive performance at the highest level was impressive. This guy was special. In this, their very next slam meeting, Djokovic took down Federer. The writing on the wall was there for everyone to see. That year, Djokovic won his 1st slam by beating the Dark-Horse Tsonga in the next match.

In 09 Djokovic retired from a quarter final match against Andy Roddick  due to extreme heat conditions and in 2010, Tsonga took down an inconsistent, error prone Djokovic in five sets. In spite of his immense talent, Djokovic and not found a winning formula in slams on account of his continued physical issues, lacking stamina and fitness.

Djokovic 2.0:

After his maiden slam victory in 2008 Djokovic would go on a streak of 11 slams without adding any hardware to his tally. But 2011 brought about a new, improved Dokovic. Just as he had in the semifinals of the 2008 Australian Open, Djokovic sent Federer packing in straight sets that year. It was a straight set affair in the final against Murray as well.

An Epic Battle:

Of all the AO titles Djoker has won, 2012 is surely his most hard-fought. After a relatively straight forward run in the early rounds  Djokovic prevailed  in a marathon 5 setter semifinal clash against Murray that lasted almost  5 hours, overcoming a 2 sets to 1 deficit. Less than 48 hours later, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic contested the longest men’s final in Rod Laver Arena. A resurgent Rafa against Novak at his peak of his powers. This titanic struggle became the longest ever men’s singles slam final in the history of the game. After 5 hours and 53 minutes of incredible resilience the Serb defeated the Spaniard. Scoreline:- 5-7,6-4,6-2,6-7(5),7-5. His 3rd successive slam final victory over Rafa gave him his 3rd Australian Open title, and 5th major.

Keep Them Coming:

Even though he failed to collect anything apart from the Australian Open in his majors tally in 2012, during which he lacked a bit intensity, normal services resumed again down under in early 2013.  Throughout the tournament he never required to shift his gears and reached the finale quite easily. In final during the 1st 2 sets  it was very tight against Murray. From 3rd set onwards a fatigued looking murray would go down In a very lackluster way. Djokovic prevailed  6–7(2–7), 7–6(7–3), 6–3, 6–2.

During 2013 US open semifinal against Stan Wawrinka, Djokovic knew the Swiss was a threat. A year later, in the quarterfinal of the 2014 Australian Open, in a remarkable display of power hitting, Wawrinka dismantled the Serb.

The 2015 Australian Open was very similar to 2013 for Djokovic. He defeated Murray again in 4 sets in the final after two tight sets. This was murray’s 4th final defeat in Melbourne, and 3rd against Djokovic. The only difference was that Djokovic had a thriller in the semifinal against Wawrinka.  Djokovic exacted revenge for his loss the previous year, triumphing in five hard fought sets.

Novak’s Performances in Australian Open

Year                                        Accomplishment
2005                                        1ST round
2006                                        1ST round
2007                                        4TH round
2008                                       WON
2009                                         QF
2010                                         QF
2011                                       WON
2012                                       WON
2013                                       WON
2014                                         QF
2015                                       WON

Keys to Win in 2016 AO:

 

Precise play and a unwillingness to be mentally distracted by intermittent lackluster performances saw Djokovic through to a record 6th Australian Open title. Looking towards the future, it is hard to imagine the Serb dropping his level. He has reached the age when many players stop consistently winning slams, but at the beginning of the 2016 season, he has displayed some of his finest form to date. In both the semifinal and the final, he dolled out 6-1 sets to Federer and Murray, and played some of the cleanest tennis of his career. Even if Djokovic’s level dips, as with Nadal and Roland Garros, and Federer at Wimbledon, he will still be a favorite in Melbourne.


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