One day, Novak Djokovic’s dominance at the Australian Open will come to an end. Such is the reality of time — the opponent that champion athletes can stave off but never defeat.
Sunday at Melbourne Park, Djokovic left no doubt that his time is still now at Rod Laver Arena, routing Russian Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to win his ninth Australian Open title.
More significantly, Djokovic claimed his 18th Grand Slam, closing the gap on career rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who are knotted at a men’s record 20 majors each. Against a Russian challenger who was riding a 20-match winning streak, Djokovic, 33, staged a breathtaking display of pace, power and precision to dispatch Medvedev with ruthless efficiency.
Djokovic won 14 of the last 18 games and roared in triumph less than two hours after the first ball was struck, keeping intact his record of never having lost an Australian Open final.
Djokovic’s relative ease in claiming the title on Sunday underscored his very real prospect of matching or surpassing the men’s record 20 majors shared by Nadal and Federer. That’s not to say that Nadal won’t be favored to win a 14th French Open in June or that a ninth Wimbledon is beyond Federer’s reach, at 39. “Roger and Rafa inspire me,” Djokovic said afterward. “I think as long as they go, I’ll go. In a way it’s a race who plays tennis more, I guess, and who wins more. It’s a competition between us in all areas. But I think that’s the very reason why we are who we are — because we do drive each other, we motivate each other, we push each other to the limit.”
Djokovic’s dominance Sunday also underscored the gap that remains between the sport’s Big Three — Federer, Nadal and Djokovic — and the younger rivals seeking to dethrone them, particularly at Grand Slam events. Said Medvedev, 25, a multi-linguist, astute tactician and delightful interview: “We are talking about some Cyborgs of tennis — in a good way. They are just unbelievable.”