Djokovic KO’s Tsonga in Aussie Final

by John on January 28, 2008


It was lightheartedly billed as a clash between the Muhammad Ali lookalike and the Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova imitator. It was Jo-Willie against Nole. Perhaps, in reality, it was a battle marking the dawn of a new era in men’s tennis. Novak Djokovic became the first player other than Roger Federer or Nadal to win a major title in 11 Grand Slam tournaments when he defeated precocious Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 in the final of the Australian Open yesterday. The 20-year-old Serb, seeded No. 3, won his first major in 13 tries with a dazzling array of ground strokes, strong serving and bulldog tenacity. Tsonga, unseeded and in his first ATP final, had been the surprise of the tournament, knocking out three seeded players prior to dismantling No. 2 Nadal in the semifinals. The ebullient Frenchman came out swinging and took command of the match at the outset with his aggressive play, but then seemed more content to rally from the baseline when Djokovic’s laser-like passing shots began to find their mark. “He was very dangerous,” Djokovic said. “I was aware of that fact, but I was trying to stay with him because I knew sooner or later, with my style of game, I could get in control of the match, which I did in the middle of the second set.” Djokovic’s victory in a major was not a surprise. The Serbian was on the verge of a breakthrough last September in the U.S. Open final when he narrowly lost to Federer, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4, squandering seven set points in the first two sets and three break points in the third against the Swiss No. 1. You knew Djokovic’s time was coming. Federer, who had reached 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals before his loss to Djokovic in the semifinals on Friday, couldn’t remain invincible forever. “I’ve created a monster that I need to win every tournament,” Federer said afterward. “Still, the semifinals isn’t bad.” Although the Swiss Maestro was conciliatory, you know he wasn’t happy. Djokovic wasn’t ready to declare the era of Federer’s dominance over. “No, I don’t think so, no,” said the Serb, who dropped but one set in seven matches. “I mean, it’s not possible that only one tournament is changing the history.” That might be true, but Djokovic is now more than just the new kid on the block. He’s the real deal and Federer knows it. As for Tsonga? Well, it was a star-is-born fortnight.

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