Novak Djokovic staves off Dominic Thiem to win eighth Australian Open crown

An imperious Novak Djokovic has maintained the status quo with back-to-back Australian Open titles and eighth overall thanks to a remarkable five-set victory over Dominic Thiem.

Irritated early in Sunday night’s final inside Rod Laver Arena, the Serbian overcame his frustrations, an apparent illness and his young rival to win 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 in four hours.

Thiem looked on course to end the Big Three’s three-year lockout at grand slams when he led 5-1 in the third set and held all the momentum heading towards the fourth frame.

But Djokovic, who had multiple visits from the doctor and received tablets for an undisclosed issue, awoke in the process of Thiem serving out the third.

Mentally rejuvenated and beginning to make the most of his fresher, battle-hardened body, the 32-year-old hardly let up in the final two sets.

Djokovic broke in the penultimate game of the fourth and held to love to send the match to a deciding fifth set that only ever had one outcome: the King of Melbourne lifting the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

He now trails Rafael Nadal by just two grand slam titles and Roger Federer by three.

“(Rod Laver Arena is) definitely my favourite court, my favourite stadium in the world,” said Djokovic, who is eight from eight in Australian Open finals.

“I’m blessed to hold this trophy once again. Thank you very much.”

But the wait continues for Thiem – or anyone outside the Big Three – to break through and become the first new grand slam champion since 2014.

While the women’s tour has already crowned a champion born in the year 2000, no major has yet been won by a man born after 1988.

The Austrian, reaching a new level on the hard courts, proved as capable as any of the next generation and could argue he was undone in part by Djokovic’s extra day of rest in the uneven Australian Open schedule.

“It wasn’t meant to be tonight,” Djokovic told his opponent.

“Tough luck. It was a tough match. But you were very close to win it. You know, you definitely have a lot more time in your career and I’m sure that you will get one of the grand slam trophies. And more. More than one.”

Yet Djokovic, whose victory has set up a fifth stint as world No.1 beginning Monday, was unquestionably the superior player across the final 90 minutes.

“I would like to start with a huge congrats to Novak and to all your team. Unreal what you are doing throughout all these years,” Thiem said in his runner-up speech.

“You and the other guys have brought tennis to a new level and I’m really proud and happy that I can compete in these times of tennis. I fell a bit short today but I hope I can get revenge soon. Well done, congrats.”

Djokovic’s reset after falling behind two sets to one banished the impact of his second-set outburst on the match.

He could face a fine of up to $20,000 if officials deem his sarcastic rub of the chair umpire’s shoes to constitute physical abuse.

The unusual act followed two time violations and a break of serve, with the Serbian blowing up at Damien Dumusois in the process.

Djokovic’s 17 grand slam titles

  • Australian Open: 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020
  • French Open: 2016
  • Wimbledon: 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019
  • US Open: 2011, 2015, 2018

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