Djokovic Wins Eighth Australian Open Crown, Returns To No. 1

Serbian beats Thiem in five sets at Melbourne Park

Novak Djokovic captured a record-extending eighth Australian Open title on Sunday to guarantee his return to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

The Serbian star fought back to beat fifth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 over three hours and 59 minutes in Sunday’s final for his 17th Grand Slam championship crown. Only Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19) have won more major singles titles in the sport’s history. The Big Three has now won 13 consecutive majors and 56 of the past 67.

"I would like to start by saying congratulations to Dominic for an amazing tournament," said Djokovic, during the on-court ceremony. "It wasn’t meant to be tonight. Tough luck and it was a tough match, but you were very close to winning it and you definitely have a lot more time in your career and I’m sure that you will get one of the Grand Slam trophies. More than one."

Djokovic extended his match record to a perfect 13-0 in the 2020 ATP Tour season, which includes helping Team Serbia clinch the inaugural ATP Cup trophy, with victory in his 26th major final (17-9). He had earned the 900th tour-level match win of his career against Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic capitalised on early nerves to win the first set against Thiem, who had won four of their past five ATP Head2Head meetings, but at 4-4 in the second set, Djokovic was first warned by the chair umpire for a service time violation. It shook the concentration of the Serbian. He received a shot clock time violation for a second time that resulted in him forfeiting a first serve. Djokovic struck an 85 miles per hour second serve, then mis-timed a forehand to give Thiem the break. The Austrian stretched the lead to 4-0 in the third set, with Djokovic needing treatment from a doctor and trainer to hydrate.

Thiem looked to have the measure of Djokovic, but at 3-4 in the fourth set, the momentum swung again. This time, Thiem struck an easy forehand drop volley into the net that would have given the Austrian a commanding 30/0 lead in the game. Sensing an opportunity, and helped by a double fault, Djokovic broke for a 5-3 lead and soon gained an early service break in the deciding set. Djokovic, who won 33 of 38 first-service points in the fourth and fifth sets, saved two break points at 2-1 in the fifth set as Thiem’s forehand faltered. Sixteen unforced errors, in addition to just seven of 29 return points won in the decider, cost 26-year-old Thiem at the most crucial times.

In the latter stages, Djokovic relied on a rarely used but much improved part of his game – serving and volleying – to lead for good.

“Probably one point and one shot separated us tonight. Could have gone a different way. I served and volleyed when I was facing a break point in the fourth and in the fifth. It worked both of the times. It could have also been different. Serve and volley is not something I'm accustomed to. I'm not really doing that that often,” Djokovic said. “I kind of recognised that as an important tactic in those circumstances, and I'm really happy it worked.”

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Djokovic, 32, will begin his fifth stint — and 276th week — at No. 1 on Monday and only has 135 FedEx ATP Rankings points to defend through to the end of the Miami Open presented by Itau and the start of the clay-court season. Should he maintain his hold on the top spot in 2020, he is projected to pass Pete Sampras (286 weeks at No. 1) on 20 April and Roger Federer (310 weeks) on 5 October to set a new all-time record for most weeks at No. 1.

Thiem, who had also finished runner-up to Nadal at Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019, has now won seven of his 11 matches against the Big 3 of Nadal (2-2), Novak Djokovic (2-2) and Roger Federer (3-0) since the start of 2019.

“I would like to start by saying a huge congrats to Novak, an amazing achievement,” said Thiem, in the on-court ceremony. “It’s unreal what you and your team are doing, throughout all these years. You, and also two other guys [Nadal and Federer] have brought men’s tennis to a complete new level and I’m really proud and happy to compete and be a part of these times. I fell short today, but I hope to get revenge soon.

“I have experienced such huge support throughout these two weeks… It is one of the best events in all sports and I am looking forward to returning next year.”

The final was watched by a record 31,020 spectators on Rod Laver Arena and outside on the grounds watching the big screen, breaking the previous record of 30,753 fans set in 2019. Additionally, the total Australian Open tournament attendance for 2020 was also a record 812,174, bettering the previous 2019 mark of 796,435.

"This tournament sets a high standard for all the other tournaments around the world and it's definitely my favourite court, my favourite stadium in the world," said Djokovic. "I’m blessed to hold this trophy once again."

Djokovic won 24 of his 29 points at the net and hit 46 winners, including nine aces. Thiem won 29 of 134 points on return of serve and committed 57 unforced errors, the same number as Djokovic. Each player also hit five double faults.

Go Inside The Final With Infosys MatchBeats

Thiem, Djokovic

How The 2020 Australian Open Final Was Won

First Set
Second seed Djokovic settled quickly and immediately put Thiem under pressure in the Austrian’s first service game, which lasted seven minutes and ended with Thiem hitting a forehand into net. Thiem finally settled his early nerves with a hold for 1-3, but was unable to penetrate Djokovic’s serve, as the Serbian won 12 of 15 service points through three holds. As Djokovic continued to take away time from Thiem, the fifth seed dug deep and was handed his first break in seventh game because of a backhand error.

Djokovic didn’t appear to suffer because of the setback, although Thiem came up with a forehand drive volley to save a break point at 3-4. At 5-4, 30/30, Thiem's technique on a low forehand approach let him down and handed Djokovic a first set point, which the Serbian defended hard for, but ultimately let slip with a forehand long. At the second time of asking, Djokovic landed a big blow, wrapping up the 53-minute opener when Thiem hit his first double fault.

Djokovic

Second Set
The Austrian, who’d been taken to Deuce in all five of his first five service games, started the second set with a love hold and once Djokovic started to drop his groundstroke length short, Thiem created opportunities. Although Thiem could not convert two break points in the third game, at the third time of asking Djokovic hit his second double fault. The momentum of the match swung to Thiem, who won three games in a row for a 3-1 advantage.

Yet he soon had to save a break point with an off-forehand winner at 3-2, 30/40 to keep Djokovic at arm’s length, and when Thiem struck a backhand long on break point at 4-3, the Serbian let out a huge roar of approval. The chair umpire gave Djokovic a warning for not serving within 25 seconds at 4-4, and later in the game Djokovic was docked a first serve, and forced to hit a second serve on a break point for Thiem. Serving for the 49-minute set at 5-4, Thiem produced fearsome hitting from the baseline, and levelled the score when Djokovic mis-timed a backhand wide. Thiem had won 13 of his 16 first-service points and struck 13 winners.

Thiem

Third Set
Djokovic soon lost all his confidence on serve and for the first time, in breaking serve for the first game of the third set, Thiem led. Having initially played serenely, Djokovic’s error count jumped and he lost his third straight service game after he hit a forehand into the net. Thiem won his sixth game in a row since Djokovic’s time violation at 4-4 in the second set, for a 4-0 lead in the third set.

Thiem closed out his second love hold of the match for a 5-1 advantage, and two games later weathered a storm as Djokovic kept fighting. Three set point opportunities came and went courtesy of a forehand error, double fault and a Djokovic backhand return winner and a break point saved before, finally, Thiem converted his fourth chance when Djokovic hit a forehand into the net. Djokovic committed 13 unforced errors and won 46 per cent of his second-service points.

Fourth Set
Having saved a break point in the third game, courtesy of a backhand volley winner, Djokovic looked more assured in the fourth set, dictating the pace of each rally. It spelt trouble for Thiem, who had to work particularly hard for his service hold at 3-3.

When serving at 3-4, Thiem made a simply forehand drop volley error that would have given the Austrian a 30/0 lead. It proved to be a big turning point as Thiem went on to hit a double fault. Djokovic converted his second break point opportunity with a forehand error and closed out with a hold to love, losing just six service points in the 42-minute set.

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/novak-djokovic/d643/overview'>Novak Djokovic</a> is going for his 17th major title on Sunday at the <a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/tournaments/australian-open/580/overview'>Australian Open</a>.

Fifth Set
Djokovic won three games in a row from 0-1 in the decider to firmly seize the momentum. First, the 32-year-old won three straight points after three forehand errors from Thiem, then he managed to save two break points — much to his opponent’s frustration — for a 3-1 advantage. Thiem never gave up, and continued to strike powerful serves, but Djokovic applied unrelenting pressure through his own clever service placement. Thiem now has a 16-6 record in deciding sets over the past 52 weeks, according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone, while Djokovic is 8-7 over the same period.