The term ‘changing of the guard’ got a few outings this fortnight, but maybe it should be put into temporary retirement when it comes to men’s tennis.
Careers might be slipping away for Roger Federer and Andy Murray, but Novak Djokovic is way out in front of everyone else and comfortably ahead of Rafael Nadal, although that thesis is bound to be tested when the French Open comes around.
On the basis of a remarkably lopsided Australian Open final Federer ought to be worried his total of 20 Grand Slam titles could be eclipsed, because Djokovic is now only five behind after a crushing 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Nadal.
Novak Djokovic lifts the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup to his lips after winning his fifteenth Grand Slam title on Sunday
The World No 1 poses with his trophy after beating Rafael Nadal in straight sets – 6-3 6-2 6-3 at the Australian Open
Djokovic addresses the crowd inside the arena as his beaten opponent Nadal watches on with his runner-up shield in hand
Djokovic drops to his knees after securing a record seventh Australian Open title at Melbourne Park on Sunday
The Serbian salutes the crowd inside the Rod Laver Arena after completing a straight-sets victory over the Spaniard
Nadal cuts a dejected figure as he stands arms folded through the trophy ceremony on the Rod Laver Arena court
It was a deeply disappointing evening for Nadal, who had reached the final without dropping a single set
MEN’S GRAND SLAM CHAMPIONS
20 – Roger Federer
17 – Rafael Nadal
15 – Novak Djokovic
14 – Pete Sampras
12 – Roy Emerson
11 – Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg
10 – Bill Tilden
8 – Fred Perry, Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi
By Press Association
The Spaniard was left looking bemused after being given the worst cuffing in all the 25 Grand Slam finals he has played. He knows better than anyone that Djokovic is unplayable when he hits a seam of form like the one he has found, and the Serb made just nine unforced errors throughout a match that was over in barely two hours.
Of all the statistics that attached themselves to this latest triumph — Djokovic’s seventh at this venue — the most impressive is becoming the only man to have won three straight Major titles on three separate occasions.
‘Maybe this is the best quality tennis I have played in a Grand Slam final, it was a truly perfect match,’ Djokovic said, before considering his place in the all-time league table with an ominous intent. ‘I will spend time reflecting on this but I would like to keep going. I want to get better and constantly improve, to have a shot at getting closer to Roger’s record, but it’s still far. Breaking records is a huge motivation.’
It is extraordinary to consider that 10 months ago he looked utterly listless at Indian Wells and Miami before gradually rediscovering his competitive urge during the clay court season. His semi-final win at Wimbledon over Nadal flicked the switch, while an underlying cause was the return to his team of coach Marian Vajda.
Nobody could have foreseen a year ago that he would overtake his childhood idol, Pete Sampras, in their total of Grand Slams won.
Djokovic clenches his fist as he celebrates during his clinical victory against one of his fiercest rivals in Rafael Nadal
Djokovic performs one of his trademark slides in a bid to reach one of Nadal’s returns during the men’s final on Sunday
As for Nadal, he did not feel ready to step up to the new level required by the ultimate opponent, having not played since the US Open. He denied he had been afflicted by nerves.
‘Four months without competing, having that big challenge in front of me, I needed something else. I don’t have it yet, to compete at this super high level,’ he said. ‘I was not able to push him to do everything one more every time. That’s not nerves. That’s things happening quicker than what happened the previous rounds.’
Although Djokovic turns 32 in May, Nadal also believes that he might be covering the court better than ever.
‘I really believe that he was able to work very hard on the off- season on his movement,’ said Nadal. ‘He was moving unbelievably well. I felt that my good shots came back in an offensive position for him. And even after not a bad shot from me, I have been in the defensive position.’
The only other time these two met in this final it lasted nearly six hours, so the expectation was that it would be another long one. That ignored the fact that Nadal has not beaten Djokovic on hard courts for more than five years, and it became clear in the first three games that a marathon was unlikely.
The Serbian was in imperious form as he wrapped up the opening set in little over half an hour on the Rod Laver Arena court
The conditions in Melbourne were searing, with both players having to deal with the heat, the temperature as high as 28C
Not only was Djokovic smothering the court with his movement. Nadal looked nervous, and in the eighth game even hit an air shot when he attempted a forehand. The Serb dropped only one point on serve in the opener and he had Nadal forced back way behind the baseline.
The procession continued in the second set. When the Spaniard attempted to disrupt his opponent with dropshots he usually came off second best in the quickfire exchanges at the net.
Nadal did force one break point, when already trailing 3-2 in the third set, but it was fairly typical that he dumped a backhand in the net when the chance presented itself.
It had become reminiscent of the first of the four finals Djokovic played here against Murray, eight years ago, when the Scot never got close.
At the end there was no shirt-ripping celebration, more a matter-of-fact feel. The truth is that a previously intriguing men’s event fizzled out from the quarter-finals onwards.
The trophy was presented by Ivan Lendl, who in his time with Murray dedicated himself to trying to disrupt the winning streaks of Djokovic. He now coaches Alex Zverev with the same aim in mind, but it looks a very distant ambition for now.
Djokovic toweled himself down numerous times throughout as the conditions saw his top constantly drenched in sweat
The setting at Melbourne Park was picturesque as a packed-out crowd watch on during sunset Down Under
A Djockovic supporter, decked out in a Serbian wig, holds a Serbian flag aloft to show his backing for the World No 1