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Significance of Novak Djokovic’s 2019 Australian Open title win

ANALYST
Feature
288   //    28 Jan 2019, 11:40 IST

Djokovic with his seventh Australian Open title
Djokovic with his seventh Australian Open title

Of all the seven Australian Open titles that Novak Djokovic has won over the years, the 2019 title is possibly the most important in his quest for being the greatest tennis player of his era. For much of the first half of his career, he was a clear third in the pantheon of the big three in men’s tennis.

Even after being the world number 1 for such a long time, winning so many Grand Slam titles and having a better head to head record against his two greatest rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, he continues to remain the third cog in the wheel in the eyes of a majority of fans and tennis pundits.

If he had lost the 2019 Australian Open title to Rafael Nadal, that would have further eroded his legacy because this is the only Grand Slam where neither of his two rivals have a better record than him. Nadal has been far superior at the French Open, and Federer has won more titles than Novak at both Wimbledon and the US Open.

A loss at Melbourne to Nadal would have been akin to Nadal losing at French Open or Federer at Wimbledon, more the former than the later. But by getting the better of Nadal who, in the eyes of many, was playing the best hard-court tennis of his life in Melbourne, Djokovic underlined his absolute supremacy at the Australian Open where he is now the undisputed leader by surpassing both Federer and Roy Emerson’s record of six titles.

Secondly, by winning here, he has closed the gap between him and his two great rivals. A loss for him would have ensured the focus being firmly shifted to the Federer-Nadal rivalry, with Djokovic being a distant third, despite the number one ranking.

But as things stand now, the tennis pundits have grudgingly accepted the Serbian as a potential candidate for the best tennis player of his generation. He will need to continue his good form and win at least one more Grand Slam this year to remain on course in his quest of Federer’s slam tally. And if that title can come at Roland-Garros, then that would firmly entrench his status as the best all-court player of the modern era.

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