The big story of the 2020 Australian Open was undoubtedly that of Novak Djokovic lifting a record-extending 8th title at the tournament. Djokovic also made a return to the top of the world rankings after having ceded the spot to Rafael Nadal at the end of the 2019 Paris-Bercy Masters.
The defending champion took the opening set against first-time Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem, only to find himself two sets to one down as the inspired Austrian moved to within a set of a maiden Grand Slam title.
It was now uncharted territory for Djokovic, who had faltered in each of the previous seven Grand Slam finals where he had trailed two sets to one - the most recent one being the 2016 US Open final against Stan Wawrinka. But to his credit, the Serb regained his confidence on serve, reined in his unforced errors and exhibited greater composure as Thiem lost serve three games away from the title.
Djokovic rode the lone break of the set to force a fifth, where he broke Thiem once again and saved two break points at 2-1 before sealing his 8th title down under. With the win, Djokovic extended his perfect start to the 2020 season to 13-0 while Thiem joined Tony Roche, Ivan Lendl and Andy Murray as the only players to lose their first three Grand Slam finals.
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Let us have a look at the five big talking points of the first Grand Slam men's singles tournament of the 2020s decade:
#1 Djokovic becomes the first player to win Grand Slam titles in 3 different decades
By beating Dominic Thiem in a five-set final, Djokovic not only defended his title from last year, but also became the first player to triumph in multiple five-set finals across 52 editions of the tournament in the Open Era.
In the process, Djokovic also became the first player in the Open Era to win Grand Slam titles in three different decades. The Serb made his Grand Slam breakthrough at this very tournament 12 years ago, which was his only Major title in the 2000s decade. In the 10 years, Djokovic equaled Federer's record of most Grand Slam titles in a decade (15), before winning the first Grand Slam title of the 2020s decade.
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#2 Thiem becomes 2nd player ever to lose from 2-sets-to-1 lead in Australian Open final
Dominic Thiem recovered from losing the opening set to move to within a set of his maiden Major title when he led defending champion Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
History was firmly on the Austrian's side. On the 19 previous occasions when a player led two sets to one in the final, that player had gone on to lift the title. But it was not to be for Thiem on the day.
With the finish line in sight, Thiem lost serve at 3-4 in the fourth and couldn't recover an early deficit in the fifth. Djokovic emulated Mats Wilander (1988) as the only Australian Open finalists in the Open Era to win from two sets to one down in the final.
In the process, the Big 3 of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic also extended their Grand Slam win-streak to 13 straight since Wawrinka lifted the 2016 US Open title.
Marin Cilic remains the last first-time Grand Slam champion (2014 US Open).
#3 Alexander Zverev makes his first Grand Slam semifinal
Three time Masters 1000 winner Sascha Zverev was third time lucky in a Major quarterfinal. The young German recovered from the loss of the opening set to down a misfiring former winner Stan Wawrinka in four sets to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.
Zverev had previously fallen short in both his Grand Slam quarterfinals - at the 2018 and 2019 Roland Garros tournaments.
In his first Major semifinal, Zverev kicked off on the right note. He took the opening set against Dominic Thiem, before dropping the third and fourth sets in tiebreakers to bow out of the tournament.
Having lost all his three matches at the inaugural ATP Cup, it was a welcome return to form for Zverev.
#4 Federer becomes the 1st player ever to win 100 matches at Australian Open
Making his 21st consecutive appearance in the tournament, six-time former champion Roger Federer recovered from a 4-8 deficit in the deciding set tiebreak against John Millman before reeling off the final six points of the match to become the first player to win 100 matches at the Australian Open.
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Two rounds later, Federer produced his greatest Grand Slam escape, saving 7 match points against Tennys Sandgren in the fourth set before extending his perfect record in Australian Open quarterfinals to 15-0.
With the Sandgren win, Federer registered his 102nd win at the Australian Open, which downed his own record (Wimbledon - 101) for most match wins at any tournament. The Swiss maestro also joined Marin Cilic (32) as the active players with the most 5-set match wins.
#5 Fognini becomes the 4th active player to recover a 2-set deficit at all 4 Grand Slam tournaments
Making his 13th appearance at the Australian Open, reigning Monte Carlo champion Fabio Fognini found himself two sets down against Australian Jordan Thompson in the opening round.
However, not for the first time in his career, the fiery Italian fought back from the brink, taking the next two sets 6-3, 6-4 before downing Thompson 10-8 in the ensuing deciding set tiebreak. In the process, Fognini joined Federer, Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Robredo as the only active players to have successfully recovered a two-set deficit at all four Grand Slam tournaments.
Fognini has made the ultimate comeback once at Roland Garros (2010 2R against Gael Monfils), twice at Wimbledon (2010 2R against Michael Russell, 2014 1R against Alex Kuznetsov), and thrice at the US Open (2012 1R against Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 2015 3R against Rafael Nadal, and 2016 1R against Teymuraz Gabashvili).
Federer leads the all-time list with 10 comebacks from two sets down in Grand Slam tournaments.