Tagged in: grand slams

Novak Djokovic rolls to 9th Australian Open title, 18th career Grand Slam

Maybe, just maybe, the thinking went, Novak Djokovic would be just a tad more susceptible to trouble this time around at the Australian Open.

After all, he tore an abdominal muscle in the third round and wasn’t sure he could continue to compete. Entering Sunday, Djokovic ceded five sets in the tournament, the most he ever dropped en route to a major final. And to top it all off, he was facing Daniil Medvedev, owner of a 20-match winning streak.

Yeah, right. We’re talking about Djokovic at Melbourne Park, where his supremacy is most certainly intact, now with nine championships in nine finals. Plus, he’s still gaining on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam standings, now up to 18 overall, two shy of the men’s record those rivals share.

Djokovic used improved serving, along with his usual relentless returning and baseline excellence to grab 11 of 13 games in one stretch and defeat Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 for a third straight Australian Open trophy.

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“Definitely, emotionally, the most challenging Grand Slam that I ever had, with everything that was happening — injury, off-the-court stuff, quarantines,” Djokovic said. “A roller-coaster ride.”

When the match ended after less than two hours, Djokovic went to the sideline, lifted his white shirt and peeled pieces of beige athletic tape from his stomach.

“I was quite worried,” Djokovic said about the injury. “I did not [think] realistically that I could actually play. I didn’t know until two hours before the fourth-round match.”

Dealing with what he called “bearable” pain, Djokovic improved to a combined 18-0 in semifinals and finals on Melbourne’s hard courts.

“Probably, it’s not your last one,” Medvedev said. “I have no words to say.”

Djokovic, a 33-year-old from Serbia, has acquired six of the last 10 majors and will stay at No. 1 in the rankings at least through March 8. That will give him 311 weeks there, breaking another mark held by Federer.

His goals now are squarely on Grand Slams, even more than before.

Put Djokovic’s nine triumphs in Australia alongside five at Wimbledon, three at the US Open and one at the French Open. The math looks good for him: He is about a year younger than Nadal and 6½ younger than Federer.

“I do enjoy the success every single time even more,” Djokovic stated, “because I know that the longer the time passes, the more difficult it’s going to become.” The No. 4-seeded Medvedev was appearing in his second Slam final; he was the runner-up to Nadal at the 2019 US Open.

The 25-year-old from Russia had won 12 in a row versus top-10 opponents, but trying to solve Djokovic in Australia is a unique challenge.

“He’s really good [at] reading an opponent’s game,” Medvedev said, “knowing what you will do next, how to beat you.”

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Djokovic: I will break Grand Slam record

Novak Djokovic maintains that he will win the most Grand Slam titles and become the longest-reigning world No. 1 by the time he is ready to retire.

Djokovic’s 17 Grand Slam titles are three shy of Roger Federer and two behind Rafael Nadal. Djokovic’s total number of weeks at No. 1 rests at 282, which trails Federer (310) and Pete Sampras (286).

“I’m always very confident in myself,” Djokovic said during an interview on “In Depth with Graham Bensinger.”

“I believe I can win the most slams and break the record for longest No. 1. Those are definitely my clear goals.” Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 in the world, was on a roll prior to the sports world being brought to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic. He captured the ATP Cup with Serbia, an eighth Australian Open title and a fifth victory at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

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Djokovic, soon to turn 33, might have to make a decision should it become mandatory for tennis players to be vaccinated against COVID-19, once the treatment is established.

“Personally, I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” Djokovic said last month while talking to other Serbian athletes in a Facebook live chat.

“But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter, and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.

“Hypothetically, if the season was to resume in July, August or September, though unlikely, I understand that a vaccine will become a requirement straight after we are out of strict quarantine, and there is no vaccine yet.” Medical experts are working overtime to prepare a vaccine for COVID-19, but a ready-for-market vaccination is not expected until 2021.

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Fate of Wimbledon to be decided next week

Organisers of the Wimbledon tennis tournament will decide next week if the event will need to be postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The London-based event is one of the four major ‘Grand Slams’ in the sport and is regarded by many as the most prestigious. It is due to run June 29-July 12 this year.

All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, which runs Wimbledon, posted an update on its website informing that because preparations for the event begin next month, it needs to make a decision shortly on whether to press on with its 2020 edition.

The org said both postponement and cancellation were on the table.

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An emergency meeting of its board is scheduled for next week, and the club explained that it is working with global tennis bodies and other Grand Slams to game plan its next moves.

It added that, “the nature of our surface suggests that postponement is not without significant risk and difficulty”, denoting that a cancellation could be likely. The org also ruled out playing behind closed doors.

“The unprecedented challenge presented by the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect our way of life in ways that we could not have imagined, and our thoughts are with all those affected in the UK and around the world,” stated the club’s chief exec Richard Lewis.

“The single most important consideration is one of public health, and we are determined to act responsibly through the decisions we make. We are working hard to bring certainty to our plans for 2020 and have convened an emergency meeting of the AELTC Main Board for next week, at which a decision will be made.”

The French Open, one of the four Grand Slams, has already postponed its dates from May to September. The other two, the US Open and Australian Open, run in September (before the French’s proposed new dates) and January accordingly.

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