Novak Djokovic defended his Australian Open crown and won a 17th Grand Slam after digging deep into his physical and mental reserves to beat Dominic Thiem in a gripping five-set final.
The Serbian second seed won 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 for a record-extending eighth title at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic, 32, twice called the doctor while trailing before fighting back.
Austrian fifth seed Thiem, 26, still awaits his first major title after losing a third Grand Slam final.
Djokovic, who fluctuated from steely brilliance to being emotionally erratic and back again, took the first of two championship points when Thiem pulled a forehand wide.
With Thiem getting plenty of support throughout in the Rod Laver Arena, Djokovic celebrated by shushing some of the crowd with his finger on his lip and then pointing to his box.
Djokovic solemnly watched as he was lauded as the ‘King of Melbourne’ before an emotional winning speech where he talked about the “devastating” Australian bushfires, world conflicts and the death of American basketball great, and his “mentor”, Kobe Bryant.
“I would like to say this is a reminder that we should stick together more than ever,” Djokovic told the 15,000 crowd.
“Stay close to the people who love you. There are more important things in life.”
His latest triumph moves him within three of Swiss Roger Federer’s all-time leading tally of 20 men’s singles titles, with Spain’s Rafael Nadal now only two ahead on 19.
The Serb’s fightback ensured the wait continues for somebody to break the stranglehold of the old guard, with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer having won the past 13 Grand Slam titles.
No other player has won a men’s major title since Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka won the US Open title in September 2016.
Djokovic will also return to the top of the world rankings, replacing Nadal, when they are published on Monday.
Fitting final to a dramatic tournament – but Djokovic provides a familiar ending
After an opening Grand Slam of the 2020 season which had pretty much everything, it was fitting that the tournament finished with another thrilling match.
Starting negatively amid a backdrop of devastating bushfires across Australia and players complaining about competing in poor air quality, the mood was lifted across the fortnight by shock wins, incredible fightbacks and another star emerging in the women’s game.
When 21-year-old American Sofia Kenin beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza on Saturday she became the eighth woman to win their first Grand Slam in the past 12 majors.
Thiem, having been a fixture in the top 10 for a number of years and winning 16 ATP titles, is far from being a new kid on the block.
But such has been the dominance of the ‘Big Three’, the Austrian remains a relative novice in the biggest finals as the younger players struggle to end their impregnability at the Slams.
On this occasion, like when Nadal beat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in five sets in the US Open final in September, Djokovic was able to navigate the difficult moments and come through to earn another special triumph.
Djokovic is the first man to win a Grand Slam title in three different decades since the Open era began in 1968.
Now the task of the younger generation is to stop Nadal and Federer doing the same.
More to follow.
Article courtesy of BBC Sport