January 12, 2020
Novak Djokovic wept tears of joy having conquered the world once more.
Rafael Nadal could only force a sporting smile having seen glory slip away.
This victory was surely as sweet as any for Novak, because it came with Serbia.
We all know how fiercely patriotic Djokovic is. It showed in the wild celebrations.
‘I will remember this experience for the rest of my life,’ Novak admitted. ‘It is one of the nicest moments of my career, for sure…It’s too special.’
His tennis racquet flew high into the crowd, the tears flowed and the singing was raucous.
Novak had already beaten Rafael Nadal and reduced the much-loved but jaded Spaniard to the role of spectator for the deciding rubber.
Nadal insisted that was a ‘team decision’ and explained that his ‘levels of energy were a little bit lower than usual’ due to a series of tough matches.
Even so, it must have been extremely tough for Rafa to watch the drama of the last match unfold and be unable to influence events any further.
There was no stopping Djokovic – even when the world number one had just tried to sap his strength from the other side of the net.
Wonderful tennis player as Nadal is, that current top-dog ranking could be seen as slightly misleading right now.
Sure, the ranking points don’t lie. But neither do the statistics.
And Djokovic just won his 18th and 19th consecutive sets against Nadal on hard courts.
That 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) victory was typically classy and clinical. The result was rarely in doubt.
It was also a pivotal moment in this scintillating Serbia v Spain final.
Roberto Bautista Agut had given his country a 1-0 lead by defeating Dusan Lajovic.
But Spain knew they still had Novak to deal with.
With the Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney packed with Serbia fans, Djokovic wasn’t about to let the inaugural ATP title pass him by.
Nadal complained that some of the Serbs had behaved like a football crowd. But what did he expect?
Everything seemed to be working in Novak’s favour.
And yet when he teamed up with Viktor Troicki to face Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez, the Serb pair looked lost for a while.
Troicki snatched at shots nervously. Djokovic played into Spanish hands with weak and surprisingly generous strokeplay early on.
Novak was broken immediately. Pablo and Feliciano seemed to be strolling it when they led 3-1 in the opener.
Rafa, it appeared, wasn’t needed after all. The big gamble seemed to have paid off handsomely.
Then Troicki relaxed and Djokovic got ruthless.
Seven successive games later, the Serbs had clinched the first set 6-3 and led 2-0 in the second.
Valiantly the Spaniards fought back. But when they sensed the finishing line close, Djokovic and Troicki didn’t tighten. They just got better.
Novak displayed the geometry of a genius. Troicki hit serves harder and harder.
But it was the occasional second serve from Djokovic that proved to be the difference.
Once he conjured brilliance when Spain threatened to break. Again he found magic on match point itself.
When his opponents expected some tricky angled kicker of a second serve, Djokovic backed himself to add speed to accuracy.
The results were devastating for the Spanish. Serbia closed out the match 6-4.