Vineet Sharma/Zeenews Sports
Melbourne: Defending champion and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open 2012 after an intense and amazing battle with Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5.
It was a record third consecutive third Grand Slam victory for Djokovic against Nadal that saw the two warriors give it their all for close to six hours in sweltering Melbourne heat. They combined the best of speed, power, accuracy and aggression to take the tie beyond expectations.
On a night where long rallies and physics defying shots were the norm, Djokovic and Rafa not just raised their game, but also the overall bar of the competition in the sport.
First Set: Nadal – 7, Djokovic – 5
TIE-BREAKER to start off! After one hour and twenty minutes, challenger Rafael Nadal emerged victorious in the first set after a clash in which every point was tougher than the previous one.
The Rod Laver Arena was scorching not just because of the Melbourne heat, but also by the hot brand of tennis served by the two.
Djokovic came up with the first winner of the Australian Open final as the best in business started with what they did best – Sizzling Tennis. Nadal quickly took the next point to tell Djoko that he would have to sweat it out in the night to hold on to his defending champion’s tag.
The one thing that marked the battle between the giants was that the margin for error was microscopic in their game as both went neck to neck in the initial phase of the final, watched by the legendary Australian tennis ace Rod Laver himself.
Djokovic’s frustration could be evident from his racket throwing during the break after Nadal broke him for the first time in the set to take a 3-2 lead with a fantastic winner after a flurry of volleys.
Both were neck to neck at 50 each for net approaches till the last quarter of the first set and stretched their game to the limit, not giving up even a single point without extreme hardwork.
Neither of the two conceded a double fault in the first set, an idea of their accuracy and concentration. Djokovic had four aces in the set while Rafa fired two in the 80 minute slugfest.
Second Set: Nadal – 4, Djokovic – 6
Djokovic made a strong comeback in the second set to keep the game alive against a dangerous looking Nadal. He won the set after long winners and painstakingly mastered shots.
The second set saw rallies with 20 or more shots becoming more common as neither the Djoker nor Rafa wanted to lose momentum amid power packed shots.
Third Set: Nadal – 2, Djokovic – 6
The third set was all about Serbian Novak Djokovic as he made a strong point against Nadal with 84% wins with his first serves and 100% with his second.
Nadal could do little in thwarting the Djoker’s moves as the world No. 1 kept on firing one winner after the other as the rallies ended more in his favour. Turning his frustration into controlled aggression, Djokovic was all over the court.
Fourth Set: Nadal – 7, Djokovic – 6
It was the first time that the pair of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic took their battle to the fifth set in a Grand Slam as the former conjured some magic from within and raised the level of his game.
Rain had delayed the game at a juncture when Rafael Nadal was all charged-up in breaking Djokovic’s momentum in the crucial make-or-break fourth set as the board read 4-4. A swing of momentum from Rafa resulted in the match getting tighter after the Serbian opponent had all but taken the match away.
The roof at the Rod Laver Arena moved slowly to block out the downpour while the staff and volunteers manually dried up the court to get the action back into the match.
Djokovic came back stronger after the delay, taking the lead in the set 5-4 while Nadal was in a frantic hurry to get his momentum back. Rafa won the next, taking the total to 5-5, with the crowd at its feet and a tie-breaker guaranteed.
Djokovic then held onto his serve and took the lead 6-5 as Nadal looked for a magical play to extend the contest into the fifth set. He did just that as the tie-breaker ended in his favour.
Nadal however, ensured that he would be in the run till the last moment with the win in the set.
Fifth Set: Nadal – 5, Djokovic – 7
The longest ever final (nearly six hours) at the Australian Open saw the two top ranked players in the world treat the spectators to an epic match. It was a match that went beyond the realms of a standard tennis match and seeped into one of the best sporting contests of the past three years.
The final set saw the two, along with the crowd that was watching, grind in a long battle for every point while keeping the nerves within the frame. Both churned out some sublime winners and in the end, gave the world a Grand Slam final to remember for years to come.
First Published: Sunday, January 29, 2012, 14:16