The season's first Major starts on Monday in Melbourne, with 128 players battling for 2000 ATP points and a Major glory. The organizers at Melbourne Park are doing their best to finish the pre-Australian Open tournaments (six of them) and make a fresh start on Monday, with all eyes set on Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal.
Novak Djokovic is seeking the ninth Australian Open title, opening the campaign against Jeremy Chardy. The Serb could face Taylor Fritz, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils and Alexander Zverev en route to the semi-final, never losing a match after passing the quarter-final round in Melbourne.
The last year's finalist Dominic Thiem lead the second quarter, alongside Diego Schwartzman, Grigor Dimitrov, Pablo Carreno Busta, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. In-form Russians Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev are the players to beat in the third quarter, alongside Roberto Bautista Agut.
The 2009 winner Rafael Nadal opens the campaign against Laslo Djere, and could face Stefanos Tsitsipas, Karen Khachanov, Matteo Berrettini and Alex de Minaur on his semi-final path. In the last year's final, Djokovic prevailed over Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to add the 17th Major to his tally.
Djokovic won ten points more, forced more Dominic's errors and hit fewer unforced mistakes, although all the numbers were mighty close in a tight four-hour battle. Nothing could separate two great rivals in the mid-range exchanges, while the Serb had a slim advantage in the shortest and most advanced rallies to forge the triumph.
Novak Djokovic could face Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open semi-final.
Thiem got broken in the first game and pulled it back at 2-4 to stay in touch. The Serb grabbed another break at 5-4 when the Austrian hit a double fault to take the first set.
Thiem was more focused in the second set's closing moments, earning a break at 15 at 4-4 and securing it with a hold at 15 to level the score at. Carried by this momentum, the Austrian raced into a 4-0 lead in set number three, flying over the court against the rival who was far from his best and moving a set away from a Major title.
With no room for errors, Djokovic survived a break chance in the fourth set's third game and took 12 of the last 15 points to rattle off three straight games at 3-3 and gain a massive boost ahead of the decider. The Serb broke the Austrian at 1-1 and fended off two break opportunities in the next one to forge a 3-1 advantage.
Dominic held after deuce in game five to linger within one break deficit. Novak produced a service winner in game eight to keep the lead and forced the rival to serve for staying in the match at 3-5. Showing no signs of nerves, Thiem held at 15 when Djokovic sprayed a backhand mistake, reducing the deficit to 4-5.
Dominic opened the tenth game with a backhand down the line winner before Novak took charge to bring it home and seal the deal, celebrating the 17th Major title.