The 'King' prevailed! In a gripping four-hour-long battle under the open roof of the Rod Laver Arena on Sunday evening, Novak Djokovic rallied back from 2-1 down to defeat 26-year-old Domonic Thiem in an intense five-set thriller 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to lift his 17th Grand Slam title and an unprecedented eighth Australian Open title.
With the win, he now stands two behind Rafael Nadal (19) and three behind Roger Federer (20) in the all-time Grand Slam list. And he equalled the Spaniard to become only the second tennis player to win five majors after turning 30. His tally includes - Australian Open 2019 and 2020, Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019 and US Open in 2018. The victory also made Djokovic the first player, male or female, to win a major in three different decades - he won his first at the Australian Open in 2008, 15 others in 2010s and another in Melbourne now.
Djokovic, who was bidding for an eighth title at Melbourne Park, broke Thiem's serve in the last game to clinch the first set 6-4 in 52 minutes. Thiem served a double-fault on set point. But Thiem broke Djokovic's serve in the third game and then fended off a break point in the sixth game before dropping serve in the eighth to make it 4-4. Fifth-seeded Thiem broke again in the next game after Djokovic was first warned by chair umpire Damien Dumusois for exceeding the 25-second serve clock at 15-30 and then penalised with a fault on break point for exceeding the time allowance again. Djokovic had only dropped one set in the tournament — in the first round against Jan-Lennard Struff — until the final. He won his previous two finals at Melbourne Park in straight sets.
At the change over, Djokovic told Dumusois he'd done a “great job, especially in the second one. You made yourself famous.” Thiem held in the next game to take the set 6-4. Thiem won the third set to lead the final against Djokovic by two sets to one. The last time Djokovic went 2-1 down in a major final was in US Open final against Andy Murray in 2012. But the Serb rallied to take the fourth set 6-3 and send the Australian Open final against Thiem to a fifth set.
Second-seeded Djokovic has never lost a semifinal or final he's contested at the Australian Open, and is aiming for a 17th Grand Slam title overall. Thiem has been runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the last two French Opens.
(With AP inputs)