MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Defending Champion World No. 1 Novak Djokovic rallied from a set down to defeat No. 2 Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7( 5), 7-5Â to win his third Australian Open title.Â TheÂ match lasted five hours and 53 minutes, the longest Grand Slam final in the Open Era in addition to the longest match in Australian Open history. The win earns Djokovic his fifth major championship. He has now won three Australian Opens, one Wimbledon title and a US Open crown.Â This is Djokovicâ€™s seventh consecutive win over Nadal, all of them in finals. Should Djokovic claim the Roland Garros title in June he would win four consecutive major championships. Djokovic joins Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to win three major championships in a row. In contrast, Nadal becomes the first player to lose three consecutive major finals in a row.
Asked if this were his greatest match, Djokovic replied, “Probably Wimbledon because Wimbledon is right up there next to this one because it’s just the tournament that I always dreamed of winning.
“But this one I think comes out on the top because just the fact that we played almost six hours is incredible, incredible.Â I think it’s probably the longest finals in the history of all Grand Slams, and just to hear that fact is making me cry, really.
“I’m very proud just to be part of this history, part of the elite of the players that have won this tournament for several times, and I was very flattered to be playing in front of Rod Laver, in front of the allâ€‘time greats.”
Nadal spoke to media after the match: “I think we played a great tennis match.Â It was I think a very good show, my opinion.Â I enjoyed being part of this event and this match.Â That’s the true, no?
“I wanted to win, but I am happy about how I did.Â I had my chances against the best player of the world today.Â I played one against one.Â For a long time I didn’t felt that I was playing in less advantage than him, you know.
“I didn’t play at lower level than him for a long time, so that’s a very positive thing for me.Â I am very happy about my mentality tonight, the mentality worked like in my best moments.
“So very happy about the beginning of the 2012 season.Â That’s all that I can say.
“Yeah, I had big chance for the 5â€‘2, yes.Â I had that easy passing shot with the backhand.Â I missÂ it, yes, but I was 4â€‘3 Loveâ€‘40 in the fourth, too.Â Anything can happen when the match is there.
“Important thing for me, during all 2011 I didn’t play much like this.Â I’m happy I am in the real right way.”
At 2-2 in the first set, Nadal claimed the first break of the match taking a 3-2 lead. The sixth game of the match which lasted almost 11 minutes, Nadal saved two break points to hold for a 4-2 lead. Djokovic broke back in the eighth game to level the set at 4-4. Nadal rebounded from 0-30 to hold and level the set at 5-5. Nadal then broke Djokovic for a 6-5 lead. Serving for the set, Djokovic rejected two Nadal set points but Nadal took the third one and the set 7-5.
Djokovic rebounded in the second set breaking in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Both men held until Djokovic served for the set at 5-3. The Serbian missed out on teo set points and was broken. As Nadal was serving to level the match he double faulted on set point â€“ set to Djokovic 6-4 and the match was even at a set apiece.
Djokovic began dominating the points forcing Nadal way back behind the baseline in the third set. Djokovic breaks serve in the fourth and the eighth game to take the set 6-2.
In the fourth set at 3-4 down, Nadal came back from 0-40 to hold for 4-4. It began to rain in Melbourne Park and the roof was closed. Djokovic held at love after the rain delay. Both men continued to hold to force a tiebreak. In the tiebreak Nadal rallied from 3-5 down to win the next four points, the set and the tiebreak 7-6(5) to even the match at two sets each.
In the fifth set, both men held until the sixth game when Nadal broke Djokovic at 30 to take a 4-2 lead. Djokovic broke back also at 30 to get back on serve at 3-4. At 4-4 Nadal saved a break point and held for 5-4.Â At 5-5 Nadal saved a break point but could not save a second, Djokovic moved to a 6-5 lead and served out the match saving a break point in the process Â to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5.
Â “I had lots of chances to finish the match in the fourth, Djokovic said,”but he came up with some incredible serves and incredible points.
“So he deserved to prolong the match in the fifth set, and then really both of us could have won the match.Â It could have gone either way.Â I felt my body started to slow down, but on the other hand, I was aware of the fact that he’s not as well feeling that great and fresh on the court.
“I’m sure that physically it’s taking a toll on him, as well.Â So I tried mentally to hang in there, to hold my composure, to hold my emotions.Â And, you know, even when I was 4â€‘2 down I still pushed myself up to the limit.
“You know, one of the points I think of the match was at 4â€‘All, fifth, the first point after 35â€‘, 40â€‘shot rally I think we both went down on our knees.
“But these kind of matches â€‘â€‘ I’m a professional tennis player.Â I’m sure any other colleague tennis player would say the same:Â We live for these matches.Â We work every day.Â We’re trying to dedicate all our life to this sport to come to the situation where we play sixâ€‘hour match for a Grand Slam title.”
“Well, with the 4â€‘2 was advantage because I felt very well physically in the moment, Nadal said.Â “I felt with very positive energy, and I played a fantastic first point of the 4â€‘2 with the forehand winner down the line after he had that return.
“Is something unbelievable how he returns, no?Â His return probably is one of the best of the history.Â That’s my opinion, no?Â I never played against a player who’s able to return like this.Â Almost every time.
“It’s true I had big mistake with 30â€‘15.Â But it’s not moment to think about that.Â That’s another just moment in an almost sixâ€‘hours match.Â Forget about that knowing that I really had real, very real chances to have the title and to win against a player who I lost six times last year.
“But I didn’t.Â I never put him in this situation during 2011, all 2011, so that’s another positive thing for me.Â I didn’t have mental problems today against him.Â I had in 2011 all these mental problems.Â Today I didn’t have.Â I compete with normal conditions against him, no?
“So that’s another positive thing.Â Probably never say that many positive things after I lose. ”
Asked if he still believed that Roger Federer was the best ever, Nadal said of Djkovic, “Now he’s the best of the world.Â That’s how great it is.Â Five Grand Slams, so the history says that he has a part in the history today winning five Grand Slams, winning a lot of titles, No. 1 of the world.
“We’ll see where he arrives.”
“But that’s nice be there fighting,” said Nadal,” you know, trying to go to the limit, bring your body to the limit of his chances.Â Something I really enjoy, and I always said is good suffer, enjoyÂ â€‘â€‘ enjoy suffering, no?
“So when you are fit, when you are, you know, with passion for the game, when you are ready to compete, you are able to suffer and enjoy suffering, no?
“I don’t know if I express very well, but is something that maybe you understand.Â So today I had this feeling, and is a really good one.Â I enjoyed.Â I suffered during the match, but I enjoyed all the troubles that I had during all the match.
“I enjoyed.Â I tried to be there, to find solutions all the time.Â I played a lot with my heart.Â I played a lot with my mind, and is something that is nice to be around and not just play tennis.”
“I’m prioritizing Grand Slams this year,” Djokovic said, “as every year, and Olympic Games.Â I think that’s one of my highest goals.
“That doesn’t mean of course that I’m not gonna prepare well and perform my best on the other tournaments.Â It’s just that, you know, the Grand Slams matter the most.
“So I want to do well and I want to get the first final at least in Paris, you know.Â I have never been in finals there, and I have a feeling that I’m ready this year to achieve that.”
Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News