MELBOURNE, February 2, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)
Novak Djokovic fought back from a set down to beat No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in four hours to claim the 2020 Australian Open title and his seventeenth major trophy. With Sunday’s peculiar victory, Djokovic regains No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings on Monday.
“It’s definitely my favorite court, my favorite stadium in the world. I’m blessed to hold this trophy once again,” the Serb said during the trophy ceremony.
Djokovic started the final furiously after immediately producing a break to grab a 2-0 lead, by prevailing in a seven-minute game which ended with Thiem netting a forehand. Both traded holds of serve thereupon, until the Austrian took profit of one inattentive service game from Djokovic, who brought Thiem back on track with two consecutive unforced errors.
However, the No. 2 seed showed a dominant returning performance during the first set, winning 10 of 13 points on Thiem’s second serve, and therefore it was no surprise that the 32-year-old Serb eventually won the opening set when Thiem hit a double fault, prevailing 6-4.
The Vienna Neustadt native had a better grip on his nerves in the second set, taking the lead for the first time after Djokovic dropped his serve with a double fault. In the course of the set, Thiem hit incredible winners from every position of the court, but was once again broken for 4-4, as Djokovic displayed a solid defense from the baseline. Nevertheless, Thiem did not lose his focus, knowing that a potential two-set backlog against Djokovic, especially at Melbourne Park, would be almost impossible to catch up.
The chair umpire gave Djokovic a warning for neglecting the shot clock at 4-4, and later in the game even handed a second serve to Novak as a result of another time violation. The Belgrade native went on sending a forehand long to get broken. “Great job. You made yourself famous. Well done,” Djokovic afterwards said to the umpire Damien Dumusois. Thiem held his following set-serving game to 15, equalizing the score after an hour and 45 minutes.
Djokovic was seemingly overwhelmed by the circumstances and lost all his composure in the early proceedings of the third set, whereby he quickly got in danger again, this time chasing a double break. Even though “Nole” later regained the intensity in his game, he was ultimately forced to strive against a 1-2 deficit in sets for the first time in his career while participating in a final Down Under.
Thiem was one set away from being not only the first Austrian ever to win the Australian Open in the singles competition, but also the first player born in the 90s to win a major. Nevertheless, the last few meters to success are known as the most difficult, especially when you face an experienced champion just as Novak Djokovic.
After saving a break point in the third game of the fourth set, Djokovic enhanced his level drastically, converting a crucial break at 4-3, as Thiem netted a forehand error. The Serb managed to close the set with a hold to love, losing just six service points during the 42-minute set, and forced a deciding five-setter. Like in the first set, Djokovic was very dominant on the return, winning a total of seven out of nine points on Thiem’s second serve.
In the final set, the entire experience of the 17-time Grand Slam champion paid off. Djokovic went on winning three consecutive games in a row from 0-1, including a vital hold for 3-1, saving two break points with risky variations such as a serve and volley. After three hours and 59 minutes, Djokovic finally completed the comeback at Melbourne Park, claiming a record-extending eighth Australian Open title.
The king has returned 👑
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 2, 2020
Down the road, Djokovic hit nine aces, won 76 per cent (66/87) first serve points and saved seven of 12 break points. Additionally, he won 24/29 points at the net and struck 46 winners.
After his tough third consecutive loss in a major final, Thiem still had just good words left during the trophy ceremony, saying: “You [Djokovic] and two other guys [Federer and Nadal] brought men’s tennis to a completely new level. I’m really proud and happy that I can compete in these times and period in tennis. I fell a little bit short today but hopefully I can [get] revenge soon.”