Novak Djokovic has reiterated his status as the premier player in men’s tennis with a surprisingly dominant straight-sets victory over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final on Sunday night.
The world No.1 steamrolled to a 6-3 6-2 6-3 victory in two hours and four minutes on Rod Laver Arena, moving past Roger Federer and Roy Emerson to stand alone with seven crowns at the major.
The one-sided affair was in stark contrast to the six-hour epic in the 2012 final between Djokovic and Nadal, won by the Serbian at 1.37am in Melbourne.
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On this occasion Djokovic committed just nine unforced errors to his 34 winners as he stormed towards what became an inevitable win.
The 31-year-old, with 15 grand slam titles, is now one ahead of Pete Sampras, just two behind Nadal and five away from Federer.
He has also become the first man to win three successive majors three times in his career – with the monumental challenge of beating Nadal at the French Open his next task.
“I’m just trying to contemplate on the journey in the last 12 months,” Djokovic said.
“I had the surgery exactly 12 months ago. To be standing now here in front of you today and managing to win this title and three out of four slams, this is truly amazing. I’m speechless.”
The defeat was the worst in a grand slam final for the out-of-sorts Spaniard after never previously losing a championship match in straight sets.
“Many congratulations to Novak and to his team,” Nadal said.
“It was an amazing level of tennis tonight and for the two weeks, so well done for everything.”
Bizarre air swing caps off disastrous start
Nadal left the tennis world stunned after an unexpected moment capped off a horror first set.
Djokovic raced out to a 3-0 lead in the final, winning 14 of the first 16 points, before taking the opening frame 6-3 in 36 minutes.
It was the first set – not just the first opening set, but the very first set – Nadal had dropped all tournament.
Losing all but one point on Djokovic’s serve to begin their 53rd head-to-head meeting, the Spaniard even missed a forehand completely as he hit his knee and could only watch the ball float past him.
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Nadal had been bidding to become the first man in the Open Era to win each of the four grand slams without dropping a set.
Djokovic, meanwhile, laid on 12 winners as he looked in imperious form on the back of his semi-final domination of Lucas Pouille.