Djokovic Picks His Spots, Attacks—and Repeats

New No. 1 wins his 8th Australian Open
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 2, 2020 9:22 AM CST
Djokovic Picks His Spots, Attacks—and Repeats
Serbia's Novak Djokovic is attended to by medical staff during his men's singles final against Austria's Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Novak Djokovic looked weary and worn down. He felt dizzy and trailed Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open final—miscues mounting, deficit growing. Djokovic did what he does, though, the AP reports. He refused to lose, waited for a chance to pounce and found his best tennis when absolutely necessary. He even threw in a wrinkle, serve-and-volleying twice when facing break point. Regaining his stamina and strokes, and showing some gutsy creativity, Djokovic came back to edge Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday night for an eighth Australian Open title, his second in a row, and 17th Grand Slam trophy overall. "I was on the brink of losing that match. ... I didn't feel that great," said Djokovic, who was seen multiple times by a doctor. "My energy," he explained, "completely collapsed."

Nonetheless, Djokovic assured himself of returning to No. 1 with the victory, replacing Rafael Nadal. No other man has won this hard-court tournament more than six times. Only Roger Federer, with 20, and Nadal, with 19, have won more men's Grand Slam singles trophies. It did not come easily this time for Djokovic, a 32-year-old from Serbia. He lost six games in a row in one stretch to Thiem, who plays a similar baseline game. Down two sets to one, Djokovic was visited by a doctor and trainer in the third set and, desperate to hydrate, guzzled water and energy drink. It was a physical test, with 61 points lasting at least nine shots apiece. At two key moments, Djokovic abandoned his usual grind-points-out script and went on the attack, rushing the net after a serve when facing a break point. It paid off both times. The Big Three now have won 13 consecutive Slams and 56 of the last 67. "It's unique in sports history that the three best players—by far—are playing in the same era,” Thiem said. “That's what makes it very, very difficult for other players to break through."

(More Australian Open stories.)

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