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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 16 February 2019

Novak Djokovic 'speechless' after record seventh Australian Open title completes 12-month turnaround

Top seed thrashes his great rival in straight sets to become the tournament's most successful male player

Novak Djokovic was left "speechless" after his masterclass against Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final completed a remarkable 12-month turnaround by the record-breaking world No 1.

Top seed Djokovic produced a ruthless performance to dismantle second seeded Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in just two hours and four minutes inside Rod Laver Arena on Sunday for his seventh title at Melbourne Park.

The victory put the 31-year-old Serb out on his own ahead of Roger Federer and Roy Emerson, who both won six Australian Open men's singles titles.

Djokovic's success is in stark contrast to his Australian Open campaign from last year when, having missed the second half of the 2017 season with an elbow injury, he tumbled out of the tournament in the fourth round in straight sets to then world No 58 Hyeon Chung.

Djokovic subsequently underwent elbow surgery before returning in March, although a string of disappointing results - including successive first round defeats at Indian Wells and Miami and a shock quarter-final loss to unheralded Marco Cecchinato at the French Open - led to “many moments of doubt” from the Serb.

However, a great champion can't be kept down and Djokovic soon went on a rampaging run of form in the second half of last season that included the Wimbledon, Cincinnati Masters, US Open, and Shanghai Masters titles, and a return to the No 1 ranking.

Djokovic has started this season much how he finished the last, and the 15-time major winner is now in possession of the three most recent grand slam titles.

"I'm just trying to contemplate on the journey in the last 12 months," said an emotional Djokovic, pausing for breath to compose himself and not become tearful.

"I had the surgery exactly 12 months ago. To be standing now here in front of you today and managing to win this title and three out of four slams, this is amazing. I am speechless."

Djokovic and Nadal previously contested the Australian Open final in 2012, but a repeat of that near-six hour epic never materialised with Nadal uncharacteristically nervous at the start and Djokovic taking an immediate advantage he would never relinquish.

"Even if tonight was not my best day of course I had someone that played a lot better than me tonight," said 32-year-old Nadal, who had surgery during the off-season on the ankle injury that ruled him out since September.

"I have been going through tough moments in the last year. I was not able to play until the first round here. Even if tonight was not my night it's so important for me to be where I am coming back from injury."

The Spaniard had not had his service broken since the third set of his first round match but that streak ended in a flash as the Serb came sprinting out of the blocks.

Djokovic was in total control on his own delivery and won his first four service games without conceding a single point, even inducing Nadal to miss a forehand completely on the way to grabbing the set in 36 minutes.

The second set followed a similar pattern, with Djokovic racing through games on his own serve, while Nadal struggled to hold. The pressure told in the fifth game and Djokovic broke again when Nadal hit a lob volley long after an exchange at the net.

The on-song Serb was so fired up he broke Nadal again to go to 5-2 before serving out for a two-set lead with three aces in a row.

When Djokovic broke again in the third game of the third set it was just a matter of how quickly he would finish off Nadal.

The end was swift, as Djokovic withstood one break point at 3-2 before administering the last rites in a flurry of winners off both wings.

Victory extended his win-loss record against Nadal to 28-25 and squared the grand slam final count between the pair at 4-4.

Djokovic will go to Paris in May for the French Open seeking to become the only man in the Open Era to win all four majors twice.

Updated: January 27, 2019 06:09 PM

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