Three Thoughts on Novak Djokovic's 9th Australian Open Title

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Somewhere there’s a zoom call without a party inadvertently muted. Somewhere there is a cat video that goes unviewed. Somewhere there is a rabbi who enjoys a lobster boil. But we’re not there yet. And similarly elusive: a figure who can beat Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open.

For the ninth time, Djokovic played in the final. For the ninth time he outlasted the opponent. Sunday it was Russia’s Daniil Medvedev—no slouch of a player—whom Djokovic dismantled with a seamless, almost flawless, victory inside Rod Laver Arena.

Here are three thoughts from Djokovic’s 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, takedown of Medvedev in the 2021 Australian Open men’s final.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the men's singles final against Russia's Daniil Medvedev at Australian Open in Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, Feb. 21, 2021.

Peak Djokovic

In many ways, this was peak Djokovic. He didn’t win with curlicues and dazzling shotmaking, so much as he humiliated and demoralized the opponent with precision, especially off the return of serve. With each serve that would have been an ace against other player, with each blazing stroke Djokovic returned liked Aaron Sorkin dialogue, Medvedev’s confidence molted away. In the end, Djokovic played on his terms and prevailed with one of his easiest matches.

Medvedev's brilliance falters

At the 2019 U.S. Open, Medvedev acquitted himself well and played valiantly against Rafael Nadal in the final. He left with a smile. Not so much tonight in Melbourne. For six rounds—including straight set wins over Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas—Medvedev was brilliant. So much so, he was the oddsmakers' favorite to take the title over Djokovic. In the final, though, the Russian played both loose points and tight points and never quite found his best level, including on his serve. The opponent, of course, had a lot to do with that. But for a player who’d beaten Djokovic three times, including their most recent encounter, Medvedev didn’t have it in his second Major final. And you suspect this makes for a bittersweet campaign. Still, Medvedev leaves with the No. 3 ranking. And the distinct impression he will one day win Majors. It would just help if the Big Three weren’t around.

GOAT Rodeo continues for Big Three

For Djokovic, this was a statement win in so many ways. For one, it was a staving off of the new guard, a reminder that the Big Three aren’t quite done vacuuming up titles and mopping up the competition. Before the match, Djokovic said of his younger challengers, “We can talk about it all day but with all my respect to the other guys, they still have a lot of work to do. I'm not going to stand here and hand it over to them. I'm going to make them work their ass off for that." He brought that to bear tonight.

Either Djokovic, Nadal or Roger Federer have now won 54 of the last 63 Majors—a preposterous concentration of wealth. Djokovic will now break Federer’s record for weeks at No. 1, and has now won the Australian Open more times than Federer has won Wimbledon. His first Major in more than a year, Djokovic now has 18 Majors, only two behind Federer and Nadal. The GOAT rodeo continues. It will resume at the French Open.