| USA TODAY
Thanks to his affinity for Australia, Novak Djokovic keeps closing the gap on the men’s all-time Grand Slam race.
Djokovic, the No. 1 player in the world, won his ninth Australian Open title on Sunday and 18th Grand Slam overall, dusting No. 4 Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in a final that was surprisingly one-sided.
Djokovic is now within two Grand Slam titles of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who each own 20 men’s singles championships, making this race the closest its ever been among the three all-time greats.
Medvedev came into the final on a 20-match winning streak and had looked to be in top form throughout the Australian Open. But his relative inexperience in Grand Slam finals was evident. Medvedev, who lost in five sets to Nadal in the 2019 U.S. Open final, struggled to maintain his patience as Djokovic dug in to long rallies and shifted tactics at times, testing Medvedev’s forward movement and physicality.
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It resulted in a bevy of errors for Medvedev, 30 of which were unforced. Djokovic made just 15 unforced errors in the match.
It seemed for a moment, when Medvedev leveled the first set at 5-5, that Djokovic might be in for a difficult test. But he wrapped up the first with a break and only had a moment of trouble after, when Medvedev broke in the first game of the second set. Djokovic broke back right away and rattled Medvedev, who struggled to fight as hard as he did for the first hour of the match.
Djokovic will consider this one of his finest achievements, given that he was nearly knocked out of the tournament in the third round when he suffered an injury to his oblique area midway through a match against Taylor Fritz.
Playing through pain, Djokovic got pushed to a fifth set and seemed as if he might struggle to finish the match. But he found a way to get through against Fritz and was able to manage the injury, which he called the toughest he ever dealt with at a Grand Slam, as the tournament went on. By the final, Djokovic seemed to be pain-free.