Djokovic beats Nadal in record breaking Australian Open final to land third straight major title
Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open after a helter-skelter five-set epic match against Rafael Nadal in Melbourne.
The world number one edged a gripping encounter against the second seed 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 in five hours 53 minutes to win his fifth Grand Slam, and the longest ever final in the competition’s history.
Djokovic has now triumphed at the last three majors taking his total to five, and the result means he has also beaten Nadal in their last six meetings.
Nadal claimed the early initiative by winning the first set against the world number one. The momentum shifted back and forth but a break in the 11th game proved crucial as the Spaniard took it 7-5 after a gruelling hour and 20 minutes as neither player settled to their best tennis.
Djokovic hit back after making a strong start to the second set and eventually made the breakthrough at 2-1 courtesy of a fantastic low volley which landed on the baseline.
The right-hander from Belgrade maintained his dominance thanks to two solid holds although he failed to serve out the set, allowing Nadal to break to make it 5-4, but the Mallorcan could not cope with the pressure and a double fault on Djokovic’s fourth set point levelled matters.
The momentum had shifted and Djokovic was unwilling to let go, a poor Nadal forehand putting Djokovic 3-1 ahead in set three. Djokovic dropped only two points on serve and broke again in game eight with a crushing forehand to lead for the first time.
As the drama unfolded in a 88-minute fourth set, the crowd feasted on the latest thrilling encounter between two greats of the sport. Neither man showed any vulnerability until game eight, when Nadal faced 0-40 but brilliantly saved all three break points to level at 4-4.
The Spaniard now had the wind back in his sails and twice successfully served to stay in the set before overturning a 5-3 deficit to edge the tie-break. Nadal dramatically dropped to his knees with joy and it was he who made the first move in the decider, going 4-2 in front when Djokovic fired long.
However, Nadal then missed a routine backhand at 30-15 in game seven, throwing the momentum away and helping Djokovic hit back. The right-hander could not take an opportunity in game nine but made no mistake in game 11 when Nadal netted a backhand.
Djokovic finally brought proceedings to a close by hitting a winner past Nadal, but only after saving the 26th break point of the match.