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Novak Djokovic reveals pretenders he isn’t prepared at hand over crown but | Jonathan Howcroft


Whereas Novak Djokovic embraced Goran Ivanišević within the gamers’ field after celebrating his ninth Australian Open, Daniil Medvedev sat alone in his chair with a thousand-yard stare.

As main tournaments come and go, prophecies of the top of an period change into louder and extra convincing, but 10 of the final 11 instances they’ve concluded with Djokovic or Rafael Nadal standing on high of the rostrum. “We’re speaking about some cyborgs of tennis, in a great way,” admitted Medvedev. “They’re higher than different tennis gamers.”

Djokovic described Medvedev and his cohort of 20-somethings as “the leaders of the longer term” within the build-up to the ultimate, however added: “I’m not going at hand it over to them. I’m going to make them work their ass off for it.”

And boy, did he make Medvedev work. Djokovic opened with a 125mph ace and closed it with an overhead winner to finish a seventh break of serve. In between, he dismantled a participant on a 20-match successful streak. No matter was presupposed to rely towards the Serb, he turned to his benefit.

The indirect muscle tear through the five-set marathon towards Taylor Fritz was by no means an element. As a substitute, Djokovic made Rod Laver Area sing with the sound of his squeaking sneakers whereas he executed his trademark split-legged baseline defence and rubber-ankled no-look backhands.

The deeper the match went the extra bodily imposing he turned. By the third set he was swatting his foe apart like a demigod. Nostrils flared and eyes bulging, he was a commanding presence holding court docket, vitality coursing by means of his strokes in irresistible waves. Throughout the web, Medvedev crumbled.

Neutrals among the many crowd gave their informal assist to Medvedev, maybe because the underdog, maybe as a consequence of the unhealthy press Djokovic has obtained domestically in current weeks (“It harm”, the champion later conceded). However the partisan sections had been overwhelmingly Serbian and chants of “Nole!” grew in depth with every baseline-kissing return.

Novak Djokovic and his backroom group, together with Goran Ivanišević (proper), have fun after the match. {Photograph}: Fiona Hamilton/Tennis Australia/AFP/Getty Pictures

In any case, Djokovic was presupposed to wrestle with Medvedev’s serve. The fourth seed had been damaged solely eight instances through the six earlier rounds. On Sunday he suffered that ignominy not less than twice every set. Medvedev landed all his first serves in his opening service recreation, and nonetheless ended up behind. Djokovic then took Medvedev’s second serve to the cleaners, successful 19 of 28 factors. “He was positively good, I might have achieved higher,” the Russian mirrored.

Djokovic’s most profound victory was tactical. Medvedev’s repute has been constructed on his cerebral method to the sport and the best way he thinks his means by means of challenges. “I heard Jim Courier calling him a grasp chess participant due to the best way he tactically positions himself on the court docket,” Djokovic talked about beforehand. “He’s positively a really good tennis participant.”

However it was Djokovic who set the agenda, particularly along with his frequent backhand slice drop-shot that drew Medvedev off the baseline and into the web. For a interval within the first set, Djokovic appeared too desirous to shorten factors and keep away from being drawn into extended exchanges, however by the shut he outscored Medvedev 18-13 on rallies larger than 9 pictures.

Djokovic’s dominance of Melbourne Park is now second solely to Nadal’s at Roland Garros on the most important of phases. He owns a document 9 Norman Brookes Problem Cups, and has misplaced simply thrice on the event since 2011. The latest of these arrived in 2018 when he was upset by Chung Hyeun, bringing to a head a turbulent interval in his profession wherein high-profile coaches come and went, and the acceptance of career-threatening elbow surgical procedure.

Remarkably, since Wimbledon later that 12 months, he has received six of the ten main titles on provide, and three in a row in Australia. “It’s a love affair that retains on rising,” he mentioned. Djokovic’s fortnight in Melbourne additionally means the blizzard of numbers and information extends to the ATP rankings.

Monday will mark a complete of 311 weeks as world No 1 for the 33-year-old, a brand new benchmark for males’s tennis. Ominously, for his competitors, Djokovic indicated his objectives will now adapt to permit him to focus much more keenly on grand slams and seek out no matter mark is about by Nadal and Roger Federer, who each have 20 profession slams to the Serb’s 18.

These feedback contributed to a post-match press convention with a tone suggesting a person transitioning into a distinct, maybe ultimate, part of his profession. There was little celebratory grandstanding or reliving of massive factors. As a substitute there was the professed love of a household of which he has seen little in current weeks, and is destined to overlook for extended intervals throughout one other pandemic-influenced season.

“It has been emotionally probably the most difficult grand slams,” he mentioned. “It was very difficult to maintain my thoughts serene.” However like so many challenges in his extraordinary profession, it was one Djokovic overcame.