Tagged in: Trophy

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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Sergio birdies final hold to win Sanderson Farms

Sergio Garcia didn’t have to sweat much over the final shot that clinched the Sanderson Farms Championship, his first PGA Tour triumph since the 2017 Masters. It was only 2 feet 6 inches in length, barely more than a tap-in after the Spaniard hit the shot of the tournament from the final fairway.

But just like with the other putts he stroked this week, Garcia wasn’t watching when he rolled in one last birdie putt to close out a final-round 67 to edge Peter Malnati by a shot at the Country Club of Jackson.

“Well, I guess eyes closed is probably normal for me now,” Garcia said. “I realized that I get too caught up in trying to make it too perfect instead of just letting myself do it. You don’t have to hit a perfect putt every time to be able to make it.”

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Garcia, 40, has been one of the more cerebral players on Tour for more than two decades.

But even after opening with a share of the 54-hole lead in Mississippi, it didn’t appear likely coming down the stretch that he’d be able to add to his trophy haul this week.

Garcia played his first 13 holes in 2 under, a solid score for a co-leader but not good enough to keep pace with Malnati, the 2015 champion who blistered the course with a closing 63.

There were few signs entering this week that self-trust would amount to much for Garcia, who was making his first-ever Sanderson presence.

He had missed three of his last four cuts, including each of the first two majors this year, and had dropped out of the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time since 2011. In nine starts since the break, he had ended better than T-32 just once – a T-5 finish at the RBC Heritage in June.

Asked if he had become frustrated by media asking him what’s wrong with his game, Garcia shed some perspective on his recent drought. “I really wasn’t that frustrated,” he stated, “because nobody was really talking to me.”

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Title goes to Liverpool if season over

Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan says it would only be “fair” for opponents Liverpool to be awarded the English Premier League trophy if the season cannot be completed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Gundogan told German broadcaster ZDF that Liverpool deserved to be crowned champions given their massive 25-point lead over second-placed City, the current holders, which has left them just two victories away from the title.

“For me, that would be okay, yes,” Gundogan said, on being asked whether Liverpool should be handed their first top-flight title for 30 years should the season not be completed.

“You have to be fair as a sportsperson,” he added, while conceding that it was a difficult decision for football authorities given the impact that the cancellation of the season would have at both ends of the table.

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“There are different opinions. For clubs who have had a very good season, it obviously wouldn’t be nice if it was cancelled now,” he stated.

“On the other hand, for clubs who aren’t doing as well and are maybe in the relegation places, an abandonment would obviously suit them.”

The Premier League season has been suspended until April 30th, but it is looking increasingly likely that the date may have to be pushed back further.

German international Gundogan also stated he would be open to taking a pay-cut should English clubs follow the likes of Juventus and Borussia Dortmund in asking their players to accept reduced wages so non-playing staff can be paid.

“Of course I think it’s okay, that goes without saying, (but) there’s been no discussion in England yet,” he stated.

“Perhaps that’s because the English clubs are a bit financially stronger than the clubs in Germany at the moment.

“I don’t know who has the final say in that decision. On the other hand, if a player says, ‘no, I don’t want that, I worked hard for it, I get my salary’, then it can go in the opposite direction.

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