Djokovic and Osaka claim victory at the 2021 Australian Open
The men's No.1 and the women's No.3 of the world dominate in Melbourne.
by Calum Robert Nelson
Courtesy of Steve Collis via Creative Commons
On Sunday, Novak Djokovic emphatically beat Daniil Medvedev in Melbourne to win the men’s singles at the Australian Open, bringing the fortnight-long tournament to a close.
The Serb won 7-5 6-2 6-2 to earn a record-extending 9th title and continue his 100% unbeaten run in the tournament finals. The victory is the 33-year-old’s 18th major career title, bringing him ever closer in his pursuit of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s all-time record of 20 titles.
Much of the talk in the build-up to the match had suggested Medvedev would push Djokovic all the way. The 4th seed Russian was in great form, having won 20 matches in a row, including victories over Djokovic, Nadal and a number of other top 10 players. Medvedev was seeking his first Grand Slam title in his second major final, after losing the 2019 US Open Final to Rafael Nadal. But he has significantly progressed since then, his game far more polished. All the pressure was on Djokovic. Despite making the final, it had not been an easy tournament for him, having had to overcome an abdominal injury sustained in the third round.
A long, gruelling match was expected, though what unfolded was anything but. The world number one used all his experience to produce a masterclass.
As night descended in Melbourne, Djokovic started on the front foot, racing into a 3-0 lead in the opening set. But Medvedev began to find his groove and came back into the match. At 5-5, the set could have gone either way, but it was Djokovic who edged it. From then on, he blew Medvedev away, consistently repelling the Russian’s huge serves. Struggling to cope with Djokovic’s relentless pressure, Medvedev showed his frustration, smashing a racquet and shouting at his team. Djokovic, meanwhile, remained a figure of absolute composure.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Djokovic offered his commiserations to Medvedev and paid special thanks to his own physio, before telling the supporters: "I love you each year more and more. The love affair keeps going."
The match was clearly a huge disappointment for Medvedev, but he was gracious in defeat and congratulated Djokovic, describing him as a “cyborg of tennis”. He also spoke of their close friendship, thanking the Serb for helping him throughout his career. At 25 Medvedev will likely get more opportunities to win his first title, but for now he’ll have to bide his time, with Djokovic remaining invincible in Australia.
On the women’s singles front, Japan’s Naomi Osaka had seen off American Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-3 in the women’s final on Saturday to win her fourth Grand Slam title. The 23-year-old has now extended her winning run to 21 matches and is unbeaten in Grand Slam finals.
Ranked 3rd of the world, Osaka was the undoubted favourite going into the match against 24th seed Brady, who was making her first appearance in a major final. The pair had previously faced off in the semi-finals of the 2020 US Open, in which Osaka also came out on top. Just reaching the Australian Open final was a huge achievement for Brady who had not been allowed to leave her hotel room during a 2-week quarantine period in which most other players were given exemptions enabling them to train.
Initially, Osaka struggled to find her rhythm in a close opening set, with Brady dictating much of the play. But the 25-year-old American made a number of errors in the final game to hand Osaka the set. From then on Osaka pulled away, winning five games in succession to earn a convincing victory.
With a reduced crowd of 7,500 watching on inside the Rod Laver Arena, Osaka described her joy at being able to play in front of supporters again: “It feels incredible to have fans, I played the last Grand Slam without fans, to have this energy means a lot."
Runner-up Brady paid tribute to Osaka describing her as “an inspiration to us all”. "What she is doing for the game is amazing. I hope young girls are watching and inspired by what she is doing," she continued.
Osaka is the undeniable current star of the women’s game, the question now is whether she will be able to replicate her form on clay and grass.