Move over Roy Emerson, move over Roger Federer, there’s a new king of Melbourne.
You can have all the debates about the greatest men’s tennis player of all time, you can even argue about the best male player of the modern era, but what is not up for dispute is that Novak Djokovic rules the Australian Open men’s singles.
Djokovic now stands alone with seven titles at the summer slam – the most of any men’s player in the history of the event.
The 31-year-old from Serbia tore Spaniard Rafael Nadal to shreds in a dominant 6-3 6-2 6-3 victory in the 2019 final at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night.
It left the capacity crowd and millions viewing on television across the world absolutely stunned.
Djokovic might have never played a better pointy end of a grand slam in his career.
“It ranks right at the top,” Djokovic said. “Under the circumstances, playing against Nadal, such an important match, yeah, I mean, it’s amazing.
“Obviously back-to-back semifinals and finals, I think I made 15 unforced errors in total in two matches. It’s quite pleasantly surprising to myself, as well, even though I always believe I can play this way, visualize myself playing this way.
“At this level, as I said, under the circumstances, it was truly a perfect match.”
On one side of the net, Djokovic was playing as good as any player ever has in a final at Melbourne, while on the other side, Nadal was reduced to looking like a mere also-ran, not a 17-time grand slam winner.
Djokovic was ruthless from the moment he set foot on court.
It was his impenetrable defence that thrust him ahead in the match. No matter what Nadal tried, he could not find a way past Djokovic.
“Coming off from the blocks with the right intensity and trying to be aggressive and protect the line and make him feel pressure from my side, obviously that was the game plan,” Djokovic said. “I managed to get a crucial break already in the second game, get 3-Love in under 10 minutes.”
Djokovic’s game was nigh on flawless.
It was unrelenting from the first point until the last – barely giving Nadal a cheap point the whole match.
Djokovic only had four unforced errors in the opening two sets and nine for the match.
It was as close to perfection as we have seen in a grand slam final and Nadal could not cope.
“When he was hitting, is true that maybe was difficult to beat him even if I was at my 100%,” Nadal conceded.
Like he had done all tournament, Djokovic dictated the course of most points in the match.
Nadal had to return his shots from extreme angles that he was not used to in any of his previous matches in the past two weeks.
The left hander was forced to move aggressive north to south and east to west just to keep points alive, but it wore him down early in the match and he never recovered.
Nadal conceded his fitness was not up to the level of Djokovic’s.
Due to injury, it was Nadal’s first major tournament since last year’s US Open.
“I played fantastic tennis during both weeks, is true, but probably playing that well, I didn’t suffer much during the both weeks,” Nadal said. “Five months without competing, having that big challenge in front of me, I needed something else.
“That something else probably today, I don’t have it yet. I have been lot of months without having the chance to practice, without having the chance to compete. The only thing probably that I need is time and more matches.”
The most startling thing about Djokovic is that he did it all with a minimum of fuss.
His movement over the court was smooth, his running patterns deliberate and his strokes were clean. It was visually pleasing for the spectators, but it must have been painful to face for Nadal, while his supporters could only grimace.
The amazing Djokovic, top ranked player in the world, has moved into third on the all-time list of grand slam winners. His 15th title saw him jump clear of the great Pete Sampras, an idol of his.
With plenty of years ahead of him, an injury-free Djokovic has the chance to chase down Nadal (17 titles) and Federer (20 titles), but he will leave that for another day as he laps up his new status as the king of Melbourne.
Passing Sampras is something Djokovic will cherish forever.
“He was someone that I look up to,” Djokovic said. “When I was starting to play tennis actually, one of the first images of tennis in general was him playing Wimbledon, winning I think his first title back in ’92 (Sampras won his first Wimbledon in 1993), I think.
“To surpass him with grand slam titles, I’m speechless.”
Djokovic has won the Australian Open in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and now 2019.