Novak Djokovic's abdominal injury nearly sent him home in the third round at the 2021 Australian Open, but the world No. 1 could not be stopped from capturing his ninth title Down Under.
Djokovic played perhaps his best match of the tournament Sunday, easily taking down Daniil Medvedev for a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory in the year's first Grand Slam. The 33-year-old has now won 18 major championships, putting him two shy of the men's singles record held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic's nine Australian Open titles are the second-most by any man in a Grand Slam event, behind only Nadal's 13 titles at the French Open.
Medvedev came into the final in top form, winning three straight matches in straight sets. The 25-year-old came out strong against Djokovic, playing him to a tough 7-5 first set before the Aussie Open GOAT turned on the intensity. At one point, Djokovic won 11 of 13 games to obliterate his visibly frustrated opponent.
"On the court, Daniil is one of the toughest players I have ever faced in my life. It's only a matter of time before you hold a Grand Slam trophy," Djokovic said. "If you can wait a few more years, I'd appreciate it. It's amazing that he has put together a 20-match winning streak over the past few months."
Medvedev previously lost to Nadal at the 2019 U.S. Open final. The French Open is unlikely to provide Medvedev with his first major, given the Russian is still yet to get out of the first round at Roland Garros.
Djokovic's victory may erase some of the bad taste left in his mouth from the 2020 U.S. Open, when an on-court tantrum led to a shocking disqualification in an event where he was the overwhelming favorite. His temper nearly got the best of him at times in Australia as well, particularly when he destroyed his racket in a fit during his quarterfinal win over Alexander Zverev.
In the final, however, it was Medvedev left to smash his racket as a collected Djokovic soared.
Djokovic has clinched keeping the No. 1 ranking through at least March 8, which will give him the lengthiest reign atop the sport in tennis history (311 weeks).