The battle of Tennis’ Big 3 rages on as Djokovic wins record 9th Australian Open title

Novak Djokovic continued his dominance at the Australian Open beating 4th seed, Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to win his 9th title and 18th overall major title.

With the win, Djokovic snapped Medvedev’s 20 match unbeaten streak, which had stretched back to November 2020. Throughout the match, Djokovic continuously piled pressure on Medvedev’s serves with some fantastic returns and retrievals, which Medvedev had no answer to. After 1 hour and 53 minutes, a jumping backhand smash winner gave Djokovic his third consecutive title in Australia, moving him within two of Nadal and Federer’s joint record of 20 major titles.

If you had only tuned in to watch the final of the men’s tournament, you would never know that Djokovic nearly exited the tournament in the third round to 33rd ranked American tennis player, Taylor Fritz. After winning the first two sets of that game, Djokovic fell to the ground in the third set, needing treatment from his trainer.

Limping, Djokovic lost the next two sets, seemingly on course to exit a major tournament having been two sets to love up for the first time in over 10 years, when he lost at the French Open against Jürgen Melzer. However, gritty determination saw the Serb win the deciding set and progress in the competition that he would go on to win.

Perseverance through the pain barrier has been a common theme throughout Djokovic’s illustrious career. After a neck injury at the 2018 French Open, the Serb famously said that he was not sure if he would play at Wimbledon – only a month later, he won the 2018 Wimbledon Championship. A year later, he saved two match points to beat Roger Federer at the All-England Club in the longest Wimbledon final in history.

Djokovic has had a habit of winning when he is not expected to. He has won 7 tournaments in his career after being a match point down. This is an extraordinary feat, which rivals the very best records in tennis. He also has a winning record against both Rafael Nadal and Federer, the other two most dominant players in this era of tennis. On top of this, next week he will have spent the most number of weeks ranked as world number 1, overtaking Federer’s record of 310 weeks.

For many, to be called the greatest male tennis player of all time, you first have to look at the number of major titles they have under their belt. For Djokovic, this is now 18, which seems a remarkably high number. Nevertheless, Nadal and Federer still share the record for the most major titles won, with 20 apiece. Djokovic has never been as close to the record as he is now. Nadal is likely to win at least another French Open to add his remarkable 13 titles in Paris, and Federer potentially has another shot at an 8th Wimbledon title. Therefore, Djokovic will probably have to win around four or five more majors to finish above his biggest rivals.

Being the youngest out of the three, with Nadal a year older than Novak and Roger turning 40 in August, is this Djokovic’s time to overtake them? If one thing is for certain, with Djokovic announcing in recent interviews that he plans to reduce his other commitments to focus on winning more major titles, in addition to eyeing up Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, Djokovic himself is not lacking in confidence that he can achieve this monumental feat.

With these extraordinary records, Djokovic is already in the running for the mantle of being considered the greatest male tennis player of all time. If he manages to get over the finish line and become the outright leader in the major title race, this will undoubtedly cement his tennis legacy.

However, for many, Federer’s and Nadal’s legacies on and off the court simply cannot be surpassed, with the pair consistently demonstrating exemplary sportsmanship, along with all their success. In comparison, Djokovic’s antics on and off court have always sat unhealthily with tennis fans. This may be the real factor which sets Roger and Rafa apart from Novak.

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Alex Mann

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October 2021
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