Novak Djokovic Wins Seventh Australian Open Title in Near-Perfect Rout of Rafael Nadal

Novak Djokovic is the best tennis player in the world: now, and for the foreseeable future, perhaps until he chooses to retire, which looks to be a few years away yet, he hinted on Sunday night. What the 31-year-old Serb can achieve in the remaining days of a career that began more than a thousand matches and 72 titles ago is difficult to gauge but less so than it was before the final of the Australian Open.

What he did to Rafael Nadal in the Rod Laver Arena turned what had been a keen debating point about their relative merits, along with speculation about Roger Federer’s longevity, into a confident assertion that Djokovic has moved into another area of excellence.

As Pat Cash, working in Melbourne for Eurosport, said: “I’ve run into a few tennis players today and they’ve all said they’ve never seen a tennis ball hit like that in their lives. Novak can do that. It was absolutely mind-blowing tennis.” His colleague and former champion Mats Wilander described Djokovic’s performance as “absolute perfection”.

If Nadal could not stay with Djokovic for more than a few scattered moments of a final that lasted only two hours and four minutes, winning eight games and failing to take a point off his serve 56 times in 69 attempts, there is little chance for anyone else to inconvenience a player who has won three majors in a row and this year may even do the calendar grand slam for the first time since Rod Laver in 1969.

Nadal took his licks honestly. “It was unbelievable the way that he played, no doubt about that,” he said. “I didn’t suffer much during both weeks. But, five 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. It would have been difficult to beat him even if I was at 100%. When a player does almost everything better than you, you can’t complain.”

It was, curiously, a towering anticlimax of a final. It was not just that the world No 1 destroyed the world No 2 in every department. It was that this was supposed to be a high point, a grand conclusion to a fascinating tournament, one in which John McEnroe prematurely announced, “a changing of the guard”.

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SOURCE: The Guardian, Kevin Mitchell