World No.1 Novak Djokovic has become the most successful male player in Australian Open history after crushing Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3, to claim his seventh title in Melbourne Park.
The top seed showed little weakness during what was undoubtedly his best performance in the entire tournament this year. Taking on Nadal, who last won the Melbourne title in 2008, Djokovic toppled him with the help of a sublime serving display. Winning 81% of his service points. Furthermore, the Serbian hit 34 winners to nine unforced errors and faced just one break point throughout the entire encounter. Making it one of the most dominant displays he has ever produced against the Spaniard in their historic rivalry.
“I’m just trying to contemplate the journey in the last 12 months.” An emotional Djokovic reflected during his trophy ceremony.
“I had the surgery exactly 12 months ago so to be standing in front of you today and to win this title and three out of four Slams is amazing. I’m speechless.”
The clash on the Rod Laver Arena was the 53rd instalment of one of the most prestigious rivalries in the history of tennis. Prior to the clash, Djokovic narrowly lead their head-to-head 27-25. Pointing potentially to a close encounter between the two in Melbourne. However, the start to the match saw a stark disparity between the two.
Djokovic looked to be at home from the onset on a court that has brought him so much success. Meanwhile, Nadal was nervous and tentative with a series of errors undoing him. Throughout the opener, the world No.1 produced a serving Masterclass by winning 24 out of 25 points behind his serve. In contrast, Nadal dropped his first service game after hitting back-to-back errors. That sole break was enough to clinch Djokovic the first set. Serving for the 6-3 lead, a 21-shot rally concluded with a Nadal backhand ploughing into the net. Granting Djokovic his first set point, which he converted with the help of another mistake from across the court.
Applying pressure onto the 17-time grand slam champion, Djokovic continued his emphatic offensive. Capitalising on yet another lacklustre service game from Nadal, which featured four unforced errors, the Serbian broke for a 3-2 lead in the second frame. Continuing to draw blood, the double break was soon secured with the help of some spectacular play from Djokovic. Who was producing his best level of tennis. Storming to a two-set lead, Djokovic close it out with a love service game that ended with an ace out wide.
Steam-rolling towards his 15th grand slam title, which is the third highest in the Open Era, Djokovic continued to dismantle his opponent. Capitalising on the backfiring of Nadal’s trademark forehand down the line, another early break in the third set move him to a 3-1 lead. Doing so with the help of a drop shot.
It wasn’t until almost 110 minutes into the match that Djokovic faced his first break point. A clear indication of his dominance against the world No.2. Once again he denied Nadal the chance of generating momentum as he fought back to hold serve and edge closer to the title with a 4-2 lead in the third set. Destroying the mini threat, it was a pulsating forehand winner down the line that granted Djokovic a duo of match points. After failing to convert his first, he prevailed on his second after a Nadal backhand drifted long.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2019
Nadal vows to be better
After being denied the chance to end his 11-year title drought in Melbourne, Nadal has vowed to improve his game further. The Australian Open was his first tournament on the tour since September. In recent months the 32-year-old has been blighted by injury issues concerning his knee, abdomen and thigh. On top of that, he also underwent minor surgery on his ankle in November.
“It has been an emotional two weeks. Even if tonight wasn’t my best day, I had somebody that played much better than me tonight.” Said Nadal.
“It’s been a very important two weeks for me. I have been going through some tough moments over the past year. Only having the chance to play in nine events and having to retire in two of them.”
Now with his injury woes hopefully behind him, Nadal hopes his Melbourne run will elevate him to success later on in the season. In the tournament he scored two wins over seeded players – Alex de Minaur and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I really believed I played some good tennis. This is going to be some good energy for what’s coming.” He said.
“I’m going to keep playing hard, keep fighting hard to be a better player.”
The resurgence of Nadal has also gained praise from Djokovic. He has now lost eight consecutive matches against the Serbian on a hard-court.
“You are showing to me and all your other colleagues what is the definition of the fighting spirit and resilience.” Djokovic said during his tribute to Nadal.
The hat-trick of hat-tricks
Djokovic has now won three consecutive grand slam titles in a row after Wimbledon and the US Open. He has become the first player in history to claim three consecutive major trophies on three different occasions. He has previously done so during 2011-2012 and 2015-2016.
“I would like to thank my team for supporting me. It is an individual sport, but you guys tolerate me on my bad days. Putting together a great successful formal that is working.” Djokovic said.
“Marian (Vajda) thanks for coming back to my team.” He later added.
Underlining his status as world No.1, Djokovic exits Melbourne with 2000 ranking points and AUS$4.1 Million in prize money.
Kei Nishikori recovers from a slow start to beat Taylor Fritz in Barcelona
Kei Nishikori beat Taylor Fritz 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 41 minutes to advance to the second round at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.
Kei Nishikori raliied from 1-4 down in the first set to reel off 12 of the next 15 games.
Fritz converted his second break point in the fourth game and held his service game to open up a 4-1 lead. Nishikori broke twice in the seventh and eleventh games to take a 6-5 lead. The Japanese player served out the first set 7-5 at deuce after saving a break point.
Nishikori went up a double break in the third and fifth games to seal the second set 6-2.
Nishikori and Fritz met once before in the 2016 Memphis final, when the Japanese player beat his younger US rival to clinch his fourth consecutive Memphis title.
Nishikori bounced back from his opening round defeat against Pierre Hugues Herbert last week in Monte-Carlo.
Nishikori claimed two consecutive titles in Barcelona in 2014 and 2015 and finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal, who won the Barcelona title 11 times.
The Japanese player will face Canadian 18-year-old Next Gen star Felix Auger Aliassime or Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri.
Jaziri came back from one set to beat Guido Andreozzi 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-2 after 2 hours and 42 minutes.
Spanish veteran David Ferrer dropped just 11 points in his service points to ease past Germany’s Misha Zverev 6-3 6-1 after 65 minutes. Ferrer will face Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the second round.
Teenager Nicola Kuhn from Spain edged past Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-2 after 2 hours and 30 minutes scoring the biggest win of his career.
Matteo Berrettini beats Mikhail Kukushkin in Budapest
Italy’s Matteo Berrettini claimed his first win on clay this season with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin in the opening round of the Hungarian Open.
The first set started with four breaks of serve in the first five games, as Berrettini built up a 4-1 lead. Kukushkin pulled back one of the three breaks in the sixth game for 2-4. Berrettini held his final two games at love to claim the first set 6-4.
Berrettini went up a double break in the first and fifth games to open up a 5-1 lead. The Italian player wasted his first match point. Kukushkin got one break back and saved another match point to hold his service game to win his third consecutive game for 4-5, but Berrettini served out the win at love in the 10th game.
Berrettini set up a second round against Aljaz Bedene, who came back from a double break down in the opening set to beat Bernard Tomic 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.
Radu Albot from Moldova broke serve twice in each set to seal a 7-5 6-4 win over Sergiy Stakhovsky on his fourth match point after 1 hour and 41 minutes setting up a second round against Filip Krajnovic, who edged Andreas Seppi 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 after wasting four match points in the second set.
Marco Cecchinato has pulled out of the Hungarian Open and will not defend the title he won last year.
Fernando Verdasco wins all-Spanish clash against Feliciano Lopez in Barcelona first round
Fernando Verdasco beat Feliciano Lopez 6-4 6-3 in 81 minutes at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.
Former Barcelona champion Verdasco, who won this tournament in 2010, improved his win-loss record against his compatriot to 6-5 in their 11 head-to-head matches.
Verdasco claimed his only break point at love to close out the first set 6-4. Lopez got his first break at deuce in the opening game of the second set. Verdasco won four consecutive breaks from 2-3 down with two breaks to wrap up the second set 6-3. Verdasco will face Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.
Taylor Fritz won an all-American first round clash against giant Reilly Opelka 6-3 6-4 after just 55 minutes In the match between two US rising stars Fritz never faced a break point and converted one break point in each set from the four chances he created to cruise into the second round.
Fritz earned the only break in the fifth game of the first set at 15 to take a 3-2 lead after Opelka made a volley error in the fifth game. Fritz hit three service winners in the ninth game to seal the opening set 6-3.
Fritz went up a set and a break in the third game of the second set with a forehand winner. He hit a forehand winner to close out the match, as he was serving for the match at 5-4.
Diego Schwartzman came back from one set down to beat Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6 6-4 6-2.
Nishioka converted his fourth break point in the first game, but Schwartzman broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. After a trade of breaks in the sixth and seventh games Nishioka saved saved three break points to hold his serve in the eighth game. The Japanese player converted his fifth break point after a double fault from Schwartzman in the ninth game. Nishioka served out the first set at love.
Both players traded breaks twice in the second set en route to drawing level to 4-4. Schwartzman broke serve in the 10th game to close out the second set 6-4. Schwartman reeled off four consecutive games from 2-2 with two breaks of serve to win the third set.
Schwartman was playing his third match in Barcelona because he had to play the qualifying round. He forgot to sign before the tournament deadline.
Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer battled past Marius Copil 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 after two hours and 36 minutes to score his ninth match win of the season.
Mayer earned his first break to race out to a 3-0 lead and saved four break points at 3-1. He held his final two service games to close out the second set 6-3. Both players saved a total of four break points in the second set to hold their service games en route to the tie-break. Copil earned three mini-breaks to claim the tie-break 7-3 forcing the match to the third set. Mayer got the only break at love in the 12th game to seal the third set 7-5.
German Jan-Lennard Struff cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-3 6-1 after just 51 minutes. Struff saved all three break points and dropped 14 points in 8 service games. He broke once in the fourth game of the first set and three times in a row to seal the win.
Jaume Munar came back from one set down to beat Portuguese qualifier Pedro Souza 2-6 6-4 6-0 setting up a second round match against US Frances Tiafoe. Sousa got four of the six breaks to win the first set 6-4. The second set went on serve until the 10th game, when Munar got his first break on his third chance to close out the second set 6-4. The Spaniard broke three times to take a bagel win in the third set.
Mackenzie McDonald saw off Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-2 6-2 in just 57 minutes. Mackenzie converted four of hi sten break points and dropped nine points in eight service games. He won the final four games of the first set from 2-2 with two breaks to close out the first set 6-2. He got two more breaks in the third and eighth games to wrap up the match with with a forehand crosscourt winner.
Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics cruised past Denis Kudla 6-4 6-1. The Hungarian player saved two break points he faced and converted four of his nine break points.
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