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Destiny's child Djokovic speechless after surpassing Sampras

January 27, 2019 20:31 IST

'It ranks right at the top. Under the circumstances, playing against Nadal, such an important match, it's amazing," the 31-year-old told reporters after needing barely two hours to extend his perfect record in seven Australian Open finals'

Moving past Pete Sampras into outright third on the all-time list of Grand Slam winners, Novak Djokovic will head to Roland Garros looking for a second "Nole Slam", having already swept all four majors in 2015-16. 

IMAGE: Moving past Pete Sampras into outright third on the all-time list of Grand Slam winners, Novak Djokovic will head to Roland Garros looking for a second "Nole Slam", having already swept all four majors in 2015-16. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Novak Djokovic claimed a record seventh Australian Open crown in devastating style on Sunday as he condemned Rafael Nadal to the most stinging defeat in their long Grand Slam rivalry.

Three years after thrashing Andy Murray for the 2016 trophy, the Serbian regained his Melbourne Park throne with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 procession, clinching his 15th Grand Slam title and third in succession.

 

Moving past Pete Sampras into outright third on the all-time list of Grand Slam winners, Djokovic will head to Roland Garros looking for a second "Nole Slam", having already swept all four majors in 2015-16.

Only Federer's 20 and Nadal's 17 outstrip Djokovic's tally of Grand Slam trophies, but on the strength of the champion's virtuoso performance at Rod Laver Arena, they will be looking nervously over their shoulders.

It was a win that left even Djokovic marvelling, seven years after needing a record five hours and 53 minutes to fell the Spaniard in the 2012 classic at Melbourne Park.

"It ranks right at the top. Under the circumstances, playing against Nadal, such an important match, it's amazing," the 31-year-old told reporters after needing barely two hours to extend his perfect record in seven Australian Open finals.

Novak Djokovic poses with Rod Laver, Frank Sedgman, Ken Rosewall and Roy Emerson (left) following his Australian Open victory against Rafael Nadal on Sunday

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic poses with Rod Laver, Frank Sedgman, Ken Rosewall and Roy Emerson (left) following his Australian Open victory against Rafael Nadal on Sunday. Photograph: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images for Tennis Australia

The peerless Serb broke Nadal five times while conceding only a single break point, and coughed up only four unforced errors in the first two sets.

Sealing the win when a desperate Nadal fired a backhand long, Djokovic kneeled on the blue hardcourt and shook his fists at the sky.

He moved past Federer and Australian great Roy Emerson's six Melbourne titles, after two barren years Down Under with elbow problems.

After raising the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup aloft, Djokovic said American Sampras had inspired him to pick up a racket.

"It was definitely a sign of destiny to start playing tennis, to aspire to be as good as Pete. To surpass him with Grand Slam titles, I'm speechless," he said.

Djokovic underwent surgery to fix an elbow problem 12 months back and in the process seems to have also eradicated any remaining glitches in his game, handing out an incredible mauling to Nadal in the Australian Open final on Sunday.

He moved past Federer and Australian great Roy Emerson's six Melbourne titles, after two barren years Down Under with elbow problems 

IMAGE: He moved past Federer and Australian great Roy Emerson's six Melbourne titles, after two barren years Down Under with elbow problems. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters

With his record seventh crown at Melbourne Park, Djokovic moved ahead of Pete Sampras as third on the men's all-time list of most Grand Slam titles (15) and probably more poignantly just two behind Nadal.

Roger Federer is still out in front with 20 and the debate on the sport's greatest player has mostly centred around the Swiss master and the Spaniard.

But Djokovic has most certainly thrown his hat into that ring and the mark remains a motivation for him.

"Of course, it motivates me," said Djokovic, who earlier posed with his trophy for "the most beautiful and the most expensive" photograph of the night with four Australian tennis greats including Rod Laver and Roy Emerson.

"Playing Grand Slams, biggest ATP events, is my utmost priority in this season and in seasons to come. How many seasons are to come? I don't know. I'm not trying to think too much in advance.

Novak Djokovic in action during the final against Spain's Rafael Nadal 

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic in action during the final against Spain's Rafael Nadal. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

"I do want to definitely focus myself on continuing to improve my game and maintaining the overall well-being that I have mental, physical, emotional, so I would be able to compete at such a high level for the years to come, and have a shot at eventually getting closer to Roger's record. It's still far."

In their last meeting at Melbourne Park seven years ago, the Serb needed a record five hours and 53 minutes to beat Nadal in the title clash in a match regarded as a classic.

On Sunday, he needed little more than a couple of hours to clinch his 15th Grand Slam trophy and third in succession after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The victory also tied his career Grand Slam final meetings against Nadal at 4-4.

The biggest challenge for Djokovic this year will come at the French Open once again from Nadal, where the 32-year-old has won a record 11 titles.

"I have to work on my game, my claycourt game, a bit more, more specifically than I have in the last season," said Djokovic, who completed his first 'Nole Slam' in 2015-16.

"I am already playing better. But, I mean, clay specifically in order to have a chance and shot at the title. The ultimate challenge there is to win against Nadal."

Djokovic had five breaks of serve while conceding only a single break point against an opponent, who was yet to lose a set en route to the final

IMAGE: Djokovic had five breaks of serve while conceding only a single break point against an opponent, who was yet to lose a set en route to the final. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The 31-year-old played like a man possessed as those present at the packed Rod Laver Arena, which boasted strong support for Nadal, were left shaking their heads in disbelief at his utter dominance.

Djokovic had five breaks of serve while conceding only a single break point against an opponent, who was yet to lose a set en route to the final.

He committed nine unforced errors while hitting 34 winners, often under pressure and off balance.

That was after giving away only five unforced errors in his semi-final thrashing of Lucas Pouille.

"Back-to-back semi-finals and finals, I think I made 15 unforced errors in total in two matches," he said. "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."

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