Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

Novak Djokovic won a record-extending ninth Australian Open, sweeping Daniil Medvedev to move within two Grand Slam singles titles of the record shared by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Top-ranked Djokovic routed the fourth-seeded Russian 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 for an 18th major title.

Djokovic is 33 years, 8 months old. Nadal won his 18th of 20 at age 33. Federer won his 18th at 35 years, 5 months. The chase is on going back to Nadal’s domain — the French Open in late May.

Djokovic, who first won the Australian Open at age 20 in 2008, improved to 18-0 in semifinals and finals in Melbourne.

Over the last two weeks, he overcame what he called a tear in his abdominal area to outlast American Taylor Fritz in five sets in the third round. Djokovic said in his post-match on-court interview that night — after midnight — that he may have to withdraw from the tournament.

The Serbian endured, taking out Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev in four sets. Then he swept 114th-ranked Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev in the semifinals to reach a meeting with a player he called “the man to beat.”

Medvedev entered the final on a 20-match win streak dating to October, including 12 wins over top-10 foes, most notably Djokovic at the ATP Finals in November.

“It’s [Djokovic] who has all the pressure,” Medvedev said before the final, “getting to Roger and Rafa in the Grand Slams.”

But it was Medvedev who played with the weight on his wiry shoulders. He is the highest-ranked man without a major title, having lost a 2019 U.S. Open final epic to Nadal that lasted five sets and nearly five hours.

Many believed after that match in New York that Medvedev, now 25, was ticketed for major success. That may still come, but Djokovic held him off a little bit longer.

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