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Novak Djokovic plays aggressively to break Daniil Medvedev for the first set on Sunday in the Australian Open final.

Gone In 8 Minutes: Djokovic Sealed Medvedev's Fate Early

Serb sinks Russian with dominant three-game opening to Australian Open final

You never know when the pivotal moment in a match is going to happen, when one player seizes momentum and never relinquishes it. Novak Djokovic won 12 of the first 15 points of the Australian Open final against Daniil Medvedev, holding for 3-0 in the first set with an ace followed by a serve/volley point that ended with a supremely confident Sampras-like jumping overhead winner at the net.

The start and finish of this match were happening at the same time.

Djokovic’s dominant start was underpinned by a massive difference in the players’ forehands: As the Serb raced to a 3-0 lead after eight minutes, he put all 11 forehands he cleanly struck into the court. On the other side of the net, Medvedev’s forehand was hemorrhaging errors as Djokovic went for the kill on that wing early on.

Djokovic would run away with the final 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, with this initial period of the match setting the tone and flow of baseline exchanges. After three games, Medvedev had hit 18 forehands and 11 backhands. Djokovic locked in on Medvedev’s forehand, extracting seven errors from it in the first three games. The first four times Medvedev hit a forehand groundstroke or return in the match, he yielded three errors. Medvedev did hit one forehand winner during this run, but it was inconsequential.

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Medvedev made the first nine backhands he struck of the match in the opening three games, but the pressure from the overloaded forehand helped to contribute to two straight backhand errors, including one on break point in his opening service game.

Djokovic had a masterful game plan of ripping apart Medvedev’s forehand before the Russian could assert any strategy of his own, sowing the seeds of anger and disappointment that Medvedev could not shake off for the rest of the match.

Overall, Medvedev would finish with 11 forehand winners, but also contribute 33 forehand errors. Djokovic, by comparison, had much cleaner numbers off the forehand wing, with eight winners and only 16 errors. Medvedev may very well have gone into this match thinking it was going to be a battle royale of the two best backhands in the game. That narrative didn’t exist in the Djokovic playbook.

Everywhere you looked on the match stats sheet, Djokovic asserted his strategic superiority.

Baseline Points Won
• Djokovic = 53% (46/87)
• Medvedev = 38% (35/92)

Net Points Won
• Djokovic = 89% (16/18)
• Medvedev = 62% (8/13)

Serve & Volley Points Won
• Djokovic = 100% (2/2)
• Medvedev = 0% (0/0)

The average rally length for the final was 5.2 shots, which was the longest for either player for the tournament. It didn’t matter if the rallies were short or long, Djokovic had an answer.

Rally Length - Points Won
• 0-4 Shots = Djokovic 52 / Medvedev 43
• 5-8 Shots = Djokovic 20 / Medvedev 12
• 9+ Shots = Djokovic 15 / Medvedev 13

An ironic match metric is that Medvedev got dominated on the scoreboard, but actually finished the match with more winners, hitting 24 to Djokovic’s 20. But this match was never about winners. It’s the error count that made up most of the points, with Medvedev racking up 67 to Djokovic’s 44. This is where separation between the two players occurred.

The match started with an eight-minute mauling of Medvedev’s forehand. There would be no recovery.