On Sunday night, Novak Djokovic and an 18-year-old Dino Prizmic embraced a massive battle at Rod Laver Arena. Novak scored a tight 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 triumph in four hours and one minute, opening the title defense with his 90th Australian Open victory.
Prizmic made an impressive Major debut, pushing a 24-time Major winner to the limits and learning a lot from world no. 1. Novak praised Dino after the duel, and the young Croat responded in style, backing the Serb to win his 11th Australian Open crown.
Djokovic played well in the opener, and Prizmic raised his level from the second set to make the clash more exciting. Novak had the upper hand in the shortest range up to four strokes, despite mediocre numbers after landing in the first serve.
The Serb lost serve four times and created 17 opportunities on the return, seizing eight and moving over the top on his seventh match point. Novak overpowered the young gun in the opening set, serving well and breaking Dino two times for 6-2.
Dino Prizmic will chear for Novak Djokovic in the rest of the Australian Open.
Prizmic asked for a medical timeout early on, and his game looked much better in the second set. The Croat grabbed a break in the fourth game after a cracking forehand crosscourt winner, and the Serb pulled it back in the next one, returning to the positive side.
There were no more chances for the returners in the rest of the set, and Dino played better in the tie break. A teenager forged a 5-2 advantage after Novak's loose backhand and clinched the breaker 7-5 after an extended rally.
They needed 70 minutes to complete nine games in the third set, with the fifth game requiring 17 minutes. Novak broke in game two, and Dino erased the deficit in the next one after another grueling rally. The fifth game went down to the wire, and Djokovic suffered a break on Prizmic's third break point after a loose forehand.
Novak stayed focused and broke back in game six after Dino's loose backhand, locking the result at 3-3. The Serb faced two break points in the seventh game, saving them with winners and providing a pivotal hold.
The Croat moved 30-0 up on serve in the eighth game before losing ground, netting a forehand and allowing world no.
1 to grab a break and move 5-3 ahead. Djokovic held at 30 in game nine with a forced error, moving two sets to one in front after precisely three hours and gathering a boost. Dino got broken two times at the beginning of the fourth set, trailing 4-0 and moving closer to the exit door.
Prizmic saved a break point in the fifth game with an ace and held to end his downfall. A teenager pulled one break back in game six after a lucky net cord winner and held in the next one for 3-4. Novak secured the eighth game at love for 5-3 and created four match points on the return in the next one.
Dino denied them and held with a service winner, reducing the deficit to 5-4. Djokovic served for the triumph in game ten and earned three match points. Prizmic denied the opening two, fending off six match points in total and giving everything to survive.
Novak attacked on his seventh match point, forcing the rival's mistake and moving over the top. "I battled against Novak, and it showed me where my game stands. I wanted to give him a hard time on the court, and now I want him to win the title," Dino Prizmic said.