Djokovic sweeps Nadal aside to claim Australian Open

Djokovic and Nadal to meet in the final

World No 1 Novak Djokovic was relieved to have beaten Rafa Nadal in the Australian Open final. The level of excellence was astonishing.

Spain's 17-time Grand Slam victor had the chance to get back into the game in the third set but squandered the opportunity to break his opponent in the sixth game. The 11-time French Open victor had no answers. "Of course I played someone who played much better than me tonight".

Then there were his injury woes nearly 12 months ago to the day when the Serbian, about to undergo elbow surgery, was left contemplating his tennis mortality. I needed that defensive game.

The longest was a 22-shot point, which ended when Nadal netted a backhand to give Djokovic a set point at the end of the first. 34 remarkable winners flew off his racquet like magic.

"I am just trying to contemplate on the journey in the last 12 months", Djokovic said beaming at the trophy ceremony.

"At this level, as I said, under the circumstances, it was truly a flawless match".

Djokovic became the first man in history to record three separate winning streaks of three or more consecutive major titles.

It was widely being expected that Djokovic will have to struggle in the final as he looked more inclined towards a marathon match.

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic had a combined zero major championships back then. The score board for tennis' biggest prizes only reads those three names, for the most part, with only Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray occasionally crashing the party.

But as wide as the gap was between Djokovic and Nadal Sunday in Melbourne, the gap between the two of them and the highly touted next generation of men's tennis players is greater.

Both players are taking different positives from this match. Meanwhile, Nadal's 23-15 edge on Federer always evokes the question Mats Wilander once asked: "How can a guy be the greatest of all time if there was someone in his own time that he couldn't beat regularly?" In the 53 occasions he's gone toe-to-toe with Nadal, Djokovic has won 28 times. Osaka said the last time she rewarded herself with the Japanese comfort food was around November after the U.S. Open.

A year removed from surgery to his right elbow, Djokovic is pain-free, ranked No. 1 and, perhaps, better than ever.

At 32, Nadal is just a year older than Djokovic.

More immediately, the reigning Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion will head to Paris in May bidding to complete his second "Novak Slam", having won all four majors consecutively in 2015-16. Novak Djokovic is the man to beat.

No other man in the Open era has run the Grand Slam table in the same year. Nadal doesn't lose matches like that, especially after playing such flawless tennis to reach the final-he hadn't so much as a dropped service game since his opening match. If there was a legend who belongs with the Big Three, it would be Laver, an icon in the sport, honored with the Laver Cup each year.

"I would like to thank my team for supporting me".

That was manna from heaven for Djokovic, who, instead of fearing the Nadal forehand, sees it as something to be attacked, and time and again he got his reward.

Pete Sampras had hailed Djokovic's 2011 season - when he won ten tournaments inlduing all the Majors barring French Open - as the best he had ever seen in his lifetime, calling it "one of the best achievements in all of sports".



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