Djokovic won with the final score of 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 in a match that should redefine the meaning of the saying, Winning the Battle of Wills.
This was a war, where two gladiators went at each other and gave us a spectacle worthy of the Jedi archives...I meant the tennis greats archives.
Djokovic came into the match having beaten Nadal six straight finals last year, on three different surfaces.
He clearly had the mental edge, but the fiery and fierce competitor in Nadal would not let that faze him and was ready to take it to Djokovic.
If Djokovic were to win his third Australian Open crown—and second in a row—it would come down to the last straw of energy, and a true test of wills.
On the first set, Djokovic started off a little flat-footed and was not as crisp as he had been in the past. Maybe these were the effects of his five-set semifinal match against Andy Murray.
Nadal didn't start off swinging, but was definitely the loser of the two.
Nadal's first chance came in the fifth game on Djokovic's serve, when at deuce, he showed his defensive prowess.
Djokovic had him on the run and apparently had a winning volley from the net, when Nadal got to it and followed it with a passing shot forehand in his next shot to get his first break-point chance.
Djokovic responded well to erase the break-point with a great kick-serve wide that Nadal missed.
But two points later, Nadal got his second break-point after long rally ends with Djokovic missing a backhand into the net.
On the next sequence, Djokovic served wide and got the open court. But after missing long with his backhand, he handed Nadal the first break of the match. Nadal went up 3-2.
Later with Nadal serving 4-3, on the third break chance, Djokovic got in a good forehand return and Nadal missed his forehand to the net, giving the break back to Djokovic.
In the 11th game, Djokovic serving 5-5, Nadal got a break-point when he kept opening Djokovic's defense, pulling the trigger on a short opening down the line for the forehand winner.
He later capitalized on it when Djokovic missed an easy forehand long and went up 6-5. Nadal then closed the set 7-5 on his serve, with a huge serve down the T to which Djokovic's return sailed long.
On the second set, Djokovic changed the tone and started to swing away in order to loosen himself up. You could just sense that he was not at his best in that first set.
Djokovic did manage to get two break-points (15-40) on Nadal's serve on the second game, but Nadal got the hold.
But it didn't take Djokovic long to get the break. He did it on the fourth game to go up 3-1. This happened after a nice looking rally, where Djokovic tipped the tape on a volley. Nadal went on the run to try the passing shot, which Djokovic returned as a deep volley that Nadal couldn't get to in time.
But Nadal wasn't going down easily. In the ninth game on Djokovic's serve, after a drop-shot by Nadal, Djokovic got to it and Nadal hit the cross-volley winner to get a break-point. Unbelievably, Djokovic double-faulted to give back the break.
But in the next game at deuce, Nadal served down the T and approached the net on the short ball. Djokovic anticipated the shot and hit the monster passing shot backhand down the line to get the break-point.
And then on Nadal's next service chance, a double-fault. An incredible way to lose the set for him after fighting mightily to get back in it.
The third game showed Djokovic at his best.
In the fourth game on Nadal's serve, Djokovic stepped into a short ball from Nadal and hit an incredibly low forehand for a winner to the corner, setting up the break chance.
Then in the next point, Nadal missed with his forehand wide after a great exchange by both.Here you got the feeling that this could be the defining moment of the match.
Djokovic added another break in the sixth game and held on in the next.
It was total Djokovic all the time. He finished the set when with his deep return he got Nadal backpedaling and followed it up with a monster backhand winner down the line behind a running Nadal.
Djokovic won it 6-2, going up two sets to one as Nadal looked demoralized.
But on the fourth set, it was Nadal who got to swing away and tried to get himself going. He had to change the momentum otherwise it would continue to go downhill quickly.
They alternated holding serves, and in the eighth game came a pivotal point in the set.
With Djokovic up 0-40 and three break-points coming his way, the rain started to fall and it seemed to rattle Djokovic's play more than Nadal's, as the former kept looking at the Chair Umpire.
Nadal got the best of it and mounted a charge to hold his serve, going up 5-4. And then the play was halted in order to give time for the roof to be closed.
At 6-5 and 30-30, Djokovic served wide and hit a huge backhand behind Nadal. He was able to get up and weather a Nadal surge on a crucial point.
They managed to reach the tie-breaker.
On the tie-breaker at 2-3, Djokovic opened the door for Nadal when he over-hit a forehand down the line to give Nadal the mini-break.
But Dojokovic got it back at 5-3, when he hit a forehand winner down the line. He showed no hesitation whatsoever on his swing and got the crowd on their feet.
The turning point, though, came at 5-4—a point Djokovic would have remembered forever should he have lost—when he missed the easy put-away forehand at the tape on the net.
Nadal went on to win the tie-breaker 7-5.
Then it was the epic fifth set. They had never gone five sets in a final before.
Djokovic was looking exhausted, and maybe more mentally drained than anything after letting that fourth set go by.
Somehow he managed to keep pace with Nadal and exchanged holds until the sixth game, when at 30-30, he missed three straight sloppy looking forehands. This handed Nadal the lead 4-2, and it looked like Nadal had him on the ropes.
But Djokovic's will was not undone.
At 4-3, with Nadal serving 30-30, Nadal missed wide an easy open-court passing shot with Djokovic still at the net. This proved to be the turning point of the match.
Djokovic managed to go on to break Nadal and tie the set at 4-4.
Then at 5-5 with Nadal serving, Djokovic got to his second break-point chance of the game after Nadal missed a forehand wide.
On the next point Djokovic got Nadal on the run and Nadal missed a backhand slice to the net.
Djokovic went up to serve it for the Championship.
At 30-15, it was a gift from Djokovic, who had the easy overhead and missed it at the net. Was it nerves? Would this be yet another turning point?
Nadal managed to get a break-point on the next point when after a big rally, Nadal ripped a big forehand and Djokovic missed with his backhand to the net.
Then Djokovic saved the break on a huge point-play where he had Nadal off position and hit an incredibly attacking backhand that got Nadal to miss his forehand wide.
At deuce, Nadal missed the backhand return wide, setting up Championship point for Djokovic.
Then on Championship point, a huge serve down the T by Djokovic prompted Nadal to leave the short ball, which Djokovic jumped into and hit the forehand winner.
It was an epic battle where both players gave it their all, and more remarkably for Djokovic, who had to play almost 11 hours in his last two matches to win the title with only one day off.
Nadal tried but at the end it was Djokovic again who prevailed and remained the king of the tennis courts.
Now it's back to the drawing board for Nadal, and on to start talking about the Djoker slam. The French Open is up next for Djokovic.
This has certainly opened up his chances—and confidence—to go and win the Grand Slam this year. I, for one, can't wait to see him—and the others in the big three—go for it.
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