Djokovic outlasts Thiem to win eighth Australian Open title

Defending champion Novak Djokovic defeated Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final to lift his 17th Grand Slam title.

Novak Djokovic defeated Dominic Thiem to win his eighth Austalian Open title and his 17th Grand Slam title.   -  Getty Images

Dominic Thiem for a while threatened to dethrone Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, but the Serbian overcame a two sets to one deficit in a Grand Slam final for the first time to win a record-extending eighth title at Melbourne Park on Sunday.

With 17 major titles, Djokovic, who will return to the top when the new ATP world rankings are released on Monday, moved to within two majors of Rafael Nadal and three of Roger Federer, amid a raging debate over which of the three is the greatest of all time.

With the 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win on Sunday, Djokovic continued the stranglehold of the Big Three on the Grand Slams. No one else has won a major since Stan Wawrinka at the 2016 US Open.

It was also Djokovic’s fifth consecutive Grand Slam final win – against five different opponents.

For Thiem, who moves to No. 4 in the world for the first time in his career, it was a third loss in Grand Slam finals; he was runner-up to Nadal at the French Open in 2018 and 2019.

The 26-year-old Austrian, long touted as the successor to the King of Clay, is still playing second fiddle on the surface to Nadal, who is seven years his senior. But Thiem has shown a marked improvement in his hard court abilities in the last couple of years. He reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 US Open, where also he was beaten by Nadal. But his run to the final at Melbourne Park reflects one major change in his tactics – he’s playing far closer to the baseline now, giving his opponents less time to counter his massive forehand and backhand and the topspin he generates on both.

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The Austrian broke in the second game of the match for an early lead, but Djokovic immediately broke back. The first set then went on serve till the Serb broke Thiem to winning the opener 6-4.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up to Rafael Nadal, held his nerve in the second set for a 4-2 lead and then served it out at 6-4. The world No. 5 looked far the better player in the third set, which he won 6-2 after taking a 4-0 lead over the faltering Djokovic.

Djokovic broke Thiem in the fourth for a 5-3 lead and then held serve to win the set.

Djokovic took an early lead in the deciding set with a break for 2-1 and then saved multiple break points on his own serve to hold for 3-1. The Serb then held his serve to close out the fifth set 6-4.

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