Djokovic Survives Marathon to Defeat Nadal Down Under

by John on January 30, 2012

It was a battle between “two guys who absolutely refuse to surrender,” said ESPN commentator Chris Fowler. Indeed it was. Novak Djokovic won his third Australian Open championship, defeating Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in an epic final lasting five hours and 53 minutes that mercifully concluded at 1:37 a.m. this morning. It was Djokovic’s fifth Grand Slam title and third in a row, joining Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Nadal as the only men who have won three consecutive majors since the Open Era began in 1968. Nadal has been Nole’s vanquished opponent in all three. The match broke the previous record for longest men’s Grand Slam final of four hours and 54 minutes, when Mats Wilander defeated Ivan Lendl in five sets at the 1988 U.S. Open. Djokovic came into the championship match less than 48 hours after defeating Andy Murray in an exhausting, 4-hour, 50-minute semifinal Friday night. Things could have been a lot easier for Djokovic last night if he had won any of the three break points he held with Nadal serving at 3-4, love-40 in the fourth set. Nadal managed to hold for 4-4. Djokovic had his chances to put Nadal away again, leading 5-3 in the ensuing tiebreaker, but Rafa won the next four points to force a decisive fifth set. “It was obvious on the court for everybody who has watched the match that both of us, physically, we took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies,” Djokovic said. “We made history tonight, and unfortunately there couldn’t be two winners.” The score was 2-2 in the fifth when the match hit the 5-hour mark. It was now uncharted territory. Nadal held at love to take a 3-2 lead as Nole started to wobble a bit, unsteady on his feet. The Spaniard got what appeared to be the decisive break in the next game, but couldn’t consolidate it serving to go up 5-2. Djokovic tapped some unfathomable reserve of energy to break back, pouncing on a Nadal second serve to convert, and then held to even at 4-4. The 24-year-old Serb broke again in the 11th game and with the match clock approaching the 6-hour mark served it out, surviving one last break point. “I’m tired. Physically [it] was the toughest match I ever played,” Nadal said. “I think we played a great tennis match. It was, I think, a very good show. I enjoyed being part of this event and this match. I wanted to win, but I am happy about how I did. I had my chances against the best player in the world today. I played one against one. I didn’t play at lower level than him for a long time, so that’s a very positive thing for me.” Djokovic had 57 winners to 44 for Nadal and committed two fewer unforced errors, 69 to 71. The match was about way more than statistics, though. “I think it was just the matter of maybe luck in some moments and the matter of wanting this more than maybe the other player in the certain point,” Djokovic said. “It’s just incredible effort.” Nole improved to 14-16 against Nadal with his seventh straight win over the Spaniard, all in finals.

 

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