The Serbian star fought back to beat fifth-seeded Austrian Thiem over 3 hours and 59 minutes in Sunday’s final for his 17th Grand Slam championship crown. Only Federer (20) and Nadal (19) have won more major singles titles in the sport’s history. The Big Three has now won 13 consecutive majors and 56 of the past 67. “I would like to start by saying congratulations to Dominic for an amazing tournament,” said Djokovic, during the on-court ceremony. “It wasn’t meant to be tonight. Tough luck and it was a tough match, but you were very close to winning it and you definitely have a lot more time in your career and I’m sure that you will get one of the Grand Slam trophies. More than one.” Djokovic extended his match record to a perfect 13-0 in the 2020 ATP Tour season, which includes helping Team Serbia clinch the inaugural ATP Cup trophy, with victory in his 26th major final (17-9). He had earned the 900th tour-level match win of his career against Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round at Melbourne Park. Djokovic capitalised on early nerves to win the first set against Thiem, who had won four of their past five ATP Head2Head meetings, but at 4-all in the second set, Djokovic was first warned by the chair umpire for a service time violation. It shook the concentration of the Serbian. He received a shot clock time violation for a second time that resulted in him forfeiting a first serve. Djokovic struck an 85 miles per hour second serve, then mis-timed a forehand to give Thiem the break. The Austrian stretched the lead to 4:0 in the third set, with Djokovic needing treatment from a doctor and trainer to hydrate. Thiem looked to have the measure of Djokovic, but at 3:4 in the fourth set, the momentum swung again. This time, Thiem struck an easy forehand drop volley into the net that would have given the Austrian a commanding 30/0 lead in the game. Sensing an opportunity, and helped by a double fault, Djokovic broke for a 5:3 lead and soon gained an early service break in the deciding set. Djokovic, who won 33 of 38 first-service points in the fourth and fifth sets, saved two break points at 2:1 in the fifth set as Thiem’s forehand faltered. Sixteen unforced errors, in addition to just seven of 29 return points won in the decider, cost 26-year-old Thiem at the most crucial times. In the latter stages, Djokovic relied on a rarely used but much improved part of his game – serving and volleying – to lead for good. “Probably one point and one shot separated us tonight. Could have gone a different way. I served and volleyed when I was facing a break point in the fourth and in the fifth. It worked both of the times. It could have also been different. Serve and volley is not something I’m accustomed to. I’m not really doing that that often,” Djokovic said. “I kind of recognised that as an important tactic in those circumstances, and I’m really happy it worked. This tournament sets a high standard for all the other tournaments around the world and it’s definitely my favourite court, my favourite stadium in the world. I’m blessed to hold this trophy once again.” Djokovic won 24 of his 29 points at the net and hit 46 winners, including nine aces. Thiem won 29 of 134 points on return of serve and committed 57 unforced errors, the same number as Djokovic. Each player also hit five double faults. Stats of the match
Thiem battled back from losing the first set, and saved two set points in the third set of a victory over first-time major semi-finalist, Zverev, in 3 hours and 42 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. “It was an unreal match, two tie-breaks, so tough and so close,” Thiem told former World No. 1 John McEnroe in an on-court interview. “It was almost impossible to break him, with [him getting in] such a high percentage of first serves. An Australian Open final is unreal, and what a start to the season so far.” Zverev elected to receive and the decision reaped dividends with a service break, but Thiem got back immediately. Light rain began to fall in the fourth game and briefly suspended play and it was until 3-all, that Zverev put his foot on the accelerator, winning 10 straight points to a 5:3 lead and 0/30 on Thiem’s serve. Zverev clinched the 40-minute opener when Thiem hit a backhand into the net. “I played four hours and 10 minutes against Rafa [Nadal], who is the most intense guy on Tour,” said Thiem. “Almost every rally was so intense and long. I was in bed around 5 a.m. two days ago, so it was not easily to recover, then once the adrenaline came today, and by the time I walked into the full stadium I was fine. I had some trouble in the first set, we were both nervous.” Zverev extended his run of four straight games by winning the first game of the second set, but service woes arose in the third game as Thiem gained the break. Zverev showcased his athleticism with a terrific pick-up close to the net at 3:2, with Thiem serving at 15/40, finishing with a smash to level the score. However, luck was on Thiem’s side in the next game, when a backhand return hit the net cord and dropped dead to set up two break points. Thiem, sensing his chance, rushed to the net at 15/40 for a volley that Zverev could not recover. Serving for the second set at 5:4, Thiem came under pressure, but saved two break points and clinched the 40-minute set with an ace — his third of the pair’s ninth meeting. “In a Grand Slam semi-final, the level of both guys is so high and there were many key moments in the match,” said Thiem. “I had to save three or four break points in the second set… I threw almost everything in at 3-1 [in the third set], even diving for a volley, which I don’t normally do on a hard-court, because it’s pretty painful, then he broke back straight away. I saved two set points, then was in a tie-break. It was nice to be two sets to one up, than down.” There was little respite for Zverev, who attempted to fight back from 0/40 at 1-all, but was left stranded at the net on the third break point when Thiem ripped a backhand crosscourt winner. Thiem saved a break point in the next game, then came close to a 4:1 advantage, but Zverev scrambled up a backhand winner off a dive volley from Thiem at 30/40. At 2:3, a clever return by Zverev caught Thiem slicing a backhand into the net and the German’s confidence grew as he won 10 of the next 16 points. While Thiem’s forehand began to break down at 4:5, his backhand held up and the Austrian saved two set points on serve. Thiem opened up a 3/0 lead in the tie-break and continued to dig in en route to finishing the 82-minute set with a backhand crosscourt winner. “I felt nerves, having put in so much energy,” said Thiem. “My stomach was rebelling a bit. I have it a little, when it’s close and a tough match. It’s not nice to play return games, when he’s hitting so many first serves. I didn’t have a look, really, in the fourth set… Thank goodness there is a tie-break in tennis, otherwise we’d still be playing.” There were no chances en route to a tie-break in the fourth set. But when Zverev hit a double fault at 0:1, Thiem gained the advantage and fully broke clear when he took a 5:3 lead. Thiem completed his seventh win in nine meetings against Zverev with his 43rd winner – a forehand volley winner. Stats of the match
1st semifinal: (2)Novak Djokovic d. (3)Roger Federer 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-3
Djokovic was relentless, once he recovered from *2:5 down in the first set (earlier trailed 1:4, 0/40), en route to beating six-time former champion Federer, who was hindered by a groin injury, in 2 hours and 18 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. He has now won 42 of his past 44 matches at Grand Slam championships. “It could have definitely gone a different way, if he’d used those break points,” Djokovic told former World No. 1 and two-time former Australian Open winner Jim Courier in an on-court interview. “He got off to a good start and I was pretty nervous at the beginning. I have to say I respect Roger for coming out tonight. He was obviously hurt and not close to his best in terms of movement. It wasn’t the right mindset at the beginning, because I was watching him and how he was moving early on, rather than executing my own shots. I managed to dig my way back and win the first set, which was obviously mentally important. I’m pleased with the way I’ve been feeling and playing,” said Djokovic. “I thought the ATP Cup went really well for me. I got a lot of hours spent on the court, singles and doubles. It was a great lead-up for the Australian Open. Obviously, I got a lot of positive energy from that competition. I dropped only one set so far up to the final. I have two days of no matches right now, which actually is really good. It gives me more time to recuperate and gather all the necessary energy for the final.” Djokovic managed to break Federer to love when the Swiss served for the set at 5:3. Djokovic then played an immaculate tie-break, just as he didn’t make an error in the three tie-breaks he won against Federer in the 2019 Wimbledon final. At 5:1, the Serbian struck a perfect drop shot winner on approach to the net and he wrapped up the opener with a backhand return winner down the line – his 10th winner of the 62-minute set. Federer had struck 26 winners.
4th quarterfinal: (5)Dominic Thiem d. (1)Rafael Nadal 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6)
The Austrian recorded his first Grand Slam victory against the 2009 champion in six attempts to reach his first semi-final at the opening major championship of the year. Thiem won 78 per cent of first-serve points (65/83) and struck 65 winners to earn his maiden hard-court win against Nadal after four hours and 10 minutes. ”All the match was on a very good level. We were both in good form,” Thiem told former World No. 1 Jim Courier in an on-court interview. “We already had this epic match [at the US Open] in New York two years ago and today I had a feeling I was lucky in the right situations. The net cord was on my side. He is one of the greatest of all time, so you do sometimes need luck to beat him.” With both players attempting to take control of the centre of the court in baseline battles, it was Nadal who made the first breakthrough at 4:3. The Spaniard broke to love with a pinpoint backhand lob to serve for the first set. But Thiem was undeterred by his unsuccessful net approach, moving forward on multiple occasions in the following game to save set point and break with a forehand return winner. In the tie-break, Nadal attempted to dictate rallies with his forehand before moving to the net to finish points. But Thiem had all the answers, rallying from 0:2 down with two forehand passing shots to earn three set points. The Austrian converted his first opportunity, ripping a forehand winner up the line to take the opener after 67 minutes. In the 2nd set, Nadal hit his targets with two passing shots and benefited from Thiem double faults to earn his second love service break for a 3:2 lead. Three games later, a similar sequence occurred. On this occasion, it was Thiem who found a way past Nadal at the net and clinched the break for 4-all after a double fault from his opponent. Nadal increased his forehand aggression to save set point at 5:6 and took the match to a second tie-break with a cross court backhand winner. But Thiem continued to find success, striking a dipping forehand passing shot and moving up the court to establish a 4:0 advantage. Despite Nadal charging back to 4-all, Thiem claimed three straight points with his forehand to move one set from victory. “I was a break down in first two sets and, in the first set, I was fortunate to get the break back at 4:5 when he was serving for the set,” said Thiem. “In the second set, the break happened a little bit earlier. I played well in the two tie-breaks.” With neither player able to manufacture a break point in the opening nine games of the third set, Nadal secured a break at the perfect time to force a fourth set at 5:4. The Spaniard charged up the court to force Thiem into baseline errors in the opening two points and claimed the set as Thiem fired a backhand into the net. After saving three break points with powerful serving at 0:1, Thiem earned his third break of the match in the following game by attacking Nadal’s forehand to take a 2:1 lead. The 26-year-old maintained that advantage to serve for the match at 5:4, but handed Nadal a route back into the match with a double fault and three forehand errors. Thiem dragged Nadal out wide with cross court forehands in the early stages of the tie-break and continued to attack his opponent’s backhand en route to 6:4 advantage. The World No. 5 failed to convert two match points, committing a forehand error on his first opportunity. Thiem earned a third match point with a cross court backhand passing shot that clipped the tape and claimed victory as Nadal struck a forehand approach into the net. “I just wanted to stay in the match [in the fourth set] and I got the break, then got to 5-4 and served for the match and a place in my first semi-final at the Australian Open,” said Thiem. “It was so mentally tough and I could not handle it, but I managed to turn it around again. There were a few demons in the head. I was rushing too much and changing my tactics. I am very happy I won the tie-break.” Thiem becomes only the second Austrian player to reach the last four in Melbourne, following in the footsteps of two-time semi-finalist Thomas Muster. By reaching his fifth Grand Slam semi-final, the World No. 5 moves clear of Muster to take the top spot in the all-time leader board for Grand Slam semi-final appearances by an Austrian player.
With 11 ATP Tour titles to his name, including the 2018 ATP Finals, it was a question of when and not if Zverev would have a Grand Slam breakthrough. That moment came on Wednesday, with the seventh seed defeating 2014 champion Wawrinka for his first major championship semi-final at the Australian Open. “After that first set, I was getting ready to talk to the press about why I lost in straight sets,” Zverev joked in his on-court interview. “I turned it around and my energy picked up a bit. I wasn’t used to his ball… I needed a set to get used it. Thank God it worked out. It feels awesome. I’ve done well in other tournaments, but I could never break that barrier in Grand Slams. I’m happy to be in the semi-finals. You can’t imagine what this means to me and I hope it will be the first of many.” The 22-year-old has been in top form this fortnight, dropping just one set en route to reaching the last four in Melbourne. Zverev adjusted his tactics in the 2nd set and began playing high-risk tennis in a bid to keep the points short. He beefed up his first-serve percentage from 61 per cent in the first set to 90 per cent in the second set, allowing him to create one-two punches with his forehand and convincingly cruise through his service games. The added pressure resulted in Wawrinka’s normally reliable forehand breaking down. With his unforced error count in the second set nearly triple that of the first set (11 to 4), his mistakes enabled Zverev to grab the lone break of the set at 4:3 and go on to level the match. Both players traded early breaks to start the 3rd set, but Zverev was steadier in rallies as Wawrinka continued to blow hot and cold. The seventh seed broke once more at 2-all after a gruelling 20-shot rally saw the Swiss hit a slice backhand into the net. As Wawrinka’s confidence in his forehand continued to diminish, he stopped stepping into it and appeared uncertain with his footing when attacking short balls. The 2014 champion attempted to work around the problem and bravely saved two set points at 5:3, eventually holding serve with a trademark backhand winner. But the deficit was too much to overcome and Zverev comfortably held in the next game for a commanding advantage. Zverev continued to grow in confidence with each game as he sprinted to the finish line. The match came full circle as it was Zverev who charged to a 4:0 lead in the final set and closed out the match on his first attempt after 2 hours and 19 minutes. He finished the day with 34 winners to 28 unforced errors.
2nd quarterfinal: (2)Novak Djokovic d. (32)Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1)
Djokovic made it 10 wins from 10 matches against Raonic on Tuesday night, beating the Canadian to book a semi-final clash against Federer at the Australian Open. With Rod Laver watching from the stands, the second seed won 10 of 11 net points and saved both break points he faced to reach his eighth semi-final at Melbourne Park after 2 hours and 49 minutes. Djokovic owns a combined 14-0 record in semi-final and final matches at the year’s opening Grand Slam. “It’s an honour to have Rod Laver here tonight,” said Djokovic. “It certainly adds pressure, watching every move. I’ve been fortunate to play at a high level for many years and this is no doubt my favourite court.” Djokovic, who improves to 73-8 in Melbourne, is chasing a record-extending eighth Australian Open crown. If the World No. 2 lifts the trophy on Sunday, he would become only the third man to win a Grand Slam event on eight or more occasions alongside 12-time Roland Garros titlist Nadal and eight-time Wimbledon winner Federer. An eighth Australian Open title would represent a 17th Grand Slam victory for Djokovic. “I have tremendous respect for Roger and everything he has achieved in the sport,” said Djokovic. “The match ups against Roger and Rafa are the reason I am the player that I am today. I am grateful I’ve had so many matches against those guys. It’s amazing what Roger did on the court today and he’s done it a number of times in his career. Let the better player win!”
After 22 years on Tour, Federer delivered the greatest Houdini act of his career to reach the Australian Open semi-finals on Tuesday. The third seed erased seven match points to complete a stunning win over Sandgren in an instant classic. ”You’ve got to get lucky sometimes,” Federer said with a smile in his on-court interview. “I was just hoping that maybe he wasn’t going to smash a winner, if he misses one or two [match points], who knows what’s going to happen? I think I got incredibly lucky today. As the match went on, I started to feel better and just tried to play. I believe in miracles. There could be rain… Just let him finish me off in style, and he didn’t do that. I’m still standing here and obviously just very happy.” Federer remains unbeaten (15-0) in quarter-finals at this event. The Swiss has also won his past six five-set matches in Melbourne, completing another great escape last week by rallying from 4/8 in the fifth-set tie-break of his third-round clash with Millman. Federer applied pressure from the first ball in the opening set. Sandgren erased a pair of break points in his first service game, then fought back from 0/40 two games later. But Federer kept knocking on the door and it opened at 3:2, with the six-time champion securing a break after Sandgren sent a backhand long. He maintained his slight advantage and cracked a first serve on set point to take the early lead. The Swiss has been prone to streaks of unforced errors this fortnight and endured another spell of them early in the second set. With Sandgren using his outstanding speed to make Federer play one more ball, the 28-year-old tracked down a deep forehand on break point at 1-0 and floated up a high lob, drawing a smash error from Federer to grab his first break of the day. Federer struggled to find the range on his shots, hitting 15 unforced errors throughout the second set. Serving at 2:5, the third seed’s backhand hit the top of the tape on set point and allowed Sandgren to level the match. The unseeded American scored another break against the Swiss to lead 2:0 in the third set, causing the crowd inside Rod Laver Arena to gasp in unison. With the prospect of a maiden Grand Slam semi-final becoming more realistic, Sandgren blocked out any signs of nerves and remained calm. Facing triple break point at 2:0, he unleashed a series of booming serves and eventually held. Sandgren continued to increase his first-serve percentage, beefing it up from 46 per cent in the first set to 70 per cent in the third set. Federer left the court for a medical timeout at 0:3, but it didn’t change Sandgren’s dominance on serve. Most of his aces came in the ad-court, but he also consistently pushed the Swiss out wide to his forehand in the Deuce court, setting up one-two punches to keep points short. Although Federer’s movement appeared to be hampered, he fought for every point. He bravely erased five set points on his serve at 2:5, but Sandgren converted his sixth chance after a Federer backhand found the net, pumping his fist at his team as he moved closer to a career-defining win. Both players traded comfortable service holds in the fourth set until Sandgren reached match point with Federer serving at 4:5. But the prospect of defeating the six-time champion suddenly showed in the American’s groundstrokes, with three match-point opportunities vanishing due to nervy errors. Federer eventually held with a forehand winner as the crowd roared in approval. The set eventually moved to a tie-break and it was Federer who blinked first, hitting a loose forehand to give the American a 4:3 mini-break advantage. Another three match points came Sandgren’s way at 6:3, but the Swiss shockingly erased all of them and hit a swinging forehand volley winner to level the score. A seventh match point came and went at 7:6 after Sandgren hit a slice backhand into the net. Federer, at long last, earned a set point of his own at 8:7, but the American quickly removed it with an ace. Federer secured a 9:8 mini-break lead after the American pulled a forehand wide, then brought the match to a decider after Sandgren sent a smash from the baseline well long. Sandgren stayed with Federer in the early stages of the final set, but the effects of squandering seven match points had understandably taken a toll mentally. Federer found new life in his movement and pace on his forehand, cracking a down-the-line forehand at 3:2 to earn a critical break. He made good on his first match point, launching a big first serve to wrap up play after 3 hours and 31 minutes.