For the eighth time in a career, Novak Djokovic will finish the season in the top-2 but not at the very top as he did in 2018, unable to cut the deficit to Rafael Nadal at the ATP Finals. Djokovic earned five titles in 2019, including two Majors and two Masters 1000 crowns that are keeping him in the GOAT chase with Federer and Nadal.
The Serb had some surprising losses, but, as always, the dominant triumphs where he shined on both serve and return to leave the opponents far behind. The first of those victories came where it mattered the most, in the final of the Australian Open where he took down Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and four minutes to enter the record books.
Nadal didn't lose a set before the title match, suffering only two breaks in six encounters and looking good to win the Australian Open ten years after he did that for the first time. As always, the only problem for the Spaniard rested in the fact that Novak Djokovic is not an ordinary rival, failing to beat him outside clay since the final of the US Open in 2013!
Since Beijing that year, Djokovic has won 13 out of 16 matches against Nadal for complete domination, extending the advantage in head to head encounters to 28-25. Novak became the most successful player in the Australian Open history with seven titles (the fourth player in the Open era with at least seven titles at a single Slam), leaving Roy Emerson and Roger Federer on six and winning all 14 matches after passing the quarter-final round at Melbourne Park!
Also, with 15 Grand Slam titles in his hands, Djokovic became the third most successful singles player ever at Majors, leaving Pete Sampras on 14 and hunting Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was a sublime performance from Djokovic that left Nadal with nothing to change the outcome, as the Serb had the upper hand from the very first point.
Novak controlled the pace with a masterclass hitting from both wings, opening the space and forcing Rafa to play far behind the baseline from where he couldn't produce any damage, not even with his mighty forehand that worked like a charm in the previous matches.
Losing serve only twice before the final, the Spaniard was in all kinds of troubles after not finding the way to impose his shots and get some free points against the wall on the other side of the net. Like many times before, Nadal was doomed in forehand-to-backhand exchanges that Novak could endure whole day long without losing the pace or momentum, sending missiles from both wings that left Nadal unarmed this night in Melbourne.
Nadal's first serve that gave him so many easy points during these two weeks didn't exist on this day, winning miserable 51% of the points after landing it in, playing better on the second serve but suffering five breaks from eight opportunities offered to Novak to stay behind all the time.
The Serb was on another level in the serving department, dropping 13 points behind the initial shot and facing only one break chance that he successfully defended to keep his games intact and finish the encounter in the strongest possible way.
Novak had 34 winners and jaw-dropping nine unforced errors, dominating from every inch of the court and leaving Nadal on a 21-28 ratio, far from enough for at least one decent set. There were clear signs of disaster for Rafa right from the start, winning one point in the first seven Novak's service games and finding no rhythm on his serve as well, getting broken at 15 in the second game of the match and losing five straight games in set number two to find himself 6-3, 6-2 down in no time at all!
Novak would never waste such a massive advantage while playing on this level and he cemented the win with a double break in set number three for his most dominant triumph over Rafa at Majors and a clear statement he is on Nadal's and Federer's trail in the Grand Slam race.
Just a couple of days earlier, Novak scored another incredible victory, toppling Lucas Pouille 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 in an hour and 23 minutes. Novak advanced into his 24th Grand Slam final, trailing one behind Nadal and six behind Roger Federer, becoming the second Open era player with seven Australian Open finals after Roger, seeking the record-breaking seventh crown.
Djokovic was victorious in the last ten Grand Slam semi-finals after that loss to Kei Nishikori at the US Open in 2014, scoring his 264th Grand Slam win overall, the 67th at Melbourne Park. Just like in the previous 27 matches against the French players at Majors, Novak was the dominant figure on the court, having the upper hand from start to finish against the rival who competed in his first Grand Slam semi-final, never scoring a win here in Australia before!
Serving at 72%, the Serb delivered fury from his initial shot, dropping eight points in his games and never facing a break point to mount the entire pressure on the other side of the net. Djokovic finished the match with 24 winners and just five unforced errors, covering the court beautifully and taming his shots in a manner of a true champion to leave Lucas unarmed and without a chance for a more favorable result.
The Frenchman had 18 winners and 27 unforced errors, unable to impose his shots or to move Novak from the comfort zone from where he fired clean and well-balanced groundstrokes in the entire match. Novak won almost half of the points on the return, taking the opening set in less than 25 minutes and marching towards the finish line with a double break in each of the next two sets (in games four and eight) to set the final clash against Rafael Nadal that promises to be one of their best clashes considering the form of both players.
Seven months later, Novak and Lucas met in the quarter-final in Tokyo and Novak notched a 6-1, 6-2 victory in 50 minutes for the eighth semi-final of the season. Novak did lose serve once but that was hard to notice as he dropped only nine points behind the initial shot, taking 60% of the return points to create six chances and converting five to find himself over the top in no time at all.
The Serb finished the encounter with 22 winners and eight unforced errors, taming his shots nicely and drawing 17 unforced errors from the opponent who couldn't find the way to impose his strokes or to move Novak from the comfort zone, struggling on both serve and return to end his run in the quarters.
Djokovic held at love with an ace in the first game and grabbed a break at 15 in the next game following a loose volley from Pouille at the net. Novak confirmed the break with another solid hold in the third game, forcing an error from Lucas two games later to extend the lead and sealing the opening set with four winners at 5-1 after just 22 minutes.
The Frenchman hit a double fault at the beginning of the second set to suffer another break, allowing Djokovic to cement the advantage with three winners in the next game and getting broken at love in game three thanks to another terrible backhand that pushed his rival closer to the finish line.
A forehand down the line winner from Novak brought game four to him before finally experiencing troubles on serve two games later, with Lucas pulling at least one break back with a forehand winner that reduced his deficit to 4-2.
That gave him nothing as Novak grabbed another break a few minutes later, moving further ahead and crossing the finish line with three winners at 5-2, storming over his opponent and looking good to lift the first title in Tokyo and gain much-needed 500 points in the year-end no.
1 battle with Rafael Nadal. In Paris, Djokovic was on a high level again, ousting Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-1, 6-2 in 58 minutes for the 67th Masters 1000 semi-final and more points on his tally in the battle with Rafael Nadal. Stefanos won two of the previous three matches against Novak but was far from that pace in Paris, dropping half of the points behind the initial shot and facing nine break chances.
Djokovic grabbed four breaks and did everything right in his games after losing only nine points, never facing troubles and sealing the deal in no time at all to set the clash against Grigor Dimitrov. The four-time Paris champion hit 18 winners and ten unforced errors, halting the young Greek on just eight winners and 20 mistakes, delivering fury from his shots in both the quickest and more extended rallies to march towards the finish line in less than an hour.
Hitting the zone right from the start, Novak broke in the second game after a double fault from Stefanos, holding at love in game three with an ace and delivering another break when Tsitsipas netted a forehand to move 4-0 in front.
Serving to stay in the set and avoid a bagel at 0-5, Stefanos grabbed five straight points to overcome a 40-0 deficit and three set points before Novak held at 30 in the seventh game for a 6-1 in 27 minutes. Barely losing a point behind the initial shot in set number two as well, Djokovic grabbed a break in the third game of the second set after a forehand error from Stefanos who fell 4-1 down when Novak placed a return winner in game five.
Serving at 5-2, Djokovic fired three winners to seal the deal in style and move into the next round. Djokovic last victory of the season was an imposing one, toppling Matteo Berrettini 6-2, 6-1 in 63 minutes. It was the 36th victory for Novak at this tournament, earning it with a dominant display on both serve and return as he got broken once and clinched five straight breaks of serve to march towards the finish line in no time at all.
The Serb lost only ten points in his games, facing only one break point and stealing almost 60% of the points on the return to seize those five breaks from seven opportunities and earn 200 points. The Serb had ten winners and eight unforced errors, taming his shots nicely and drawing 28 unforced mistakes from Berrettini who never found his strokes or the way to move Novak from the comfort zone.
Djokovic claimed 30 out of 40 longer exchanges and had the upper hand in the quickest points up to four strokes to emerge at the top in style and send a clear message to his next rivals, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem. The opening set lasted for 29 minutes and Novak was the only player on the court, losing four points on serve and stealing more than half of the points on the return despite the fact Matteo served at 75%!
The Italian had six winners but also 17 unforced errors, unable to find space for placing his forehand and standing far behind Djokovic in the more extended exchanges where the Serb forged a 14-5 advantage. Novak made the best possible start with a hold at love after an ace, holding at 15 in games three and five to mount the pressure on the other side of the net and wait for a chance on the return patiently.
It came in game six after a terrible forehand from Berrettini, moving 4-2 up and cementing the break in the next game thanks to another forehand error from the Italian. Serving to stay in the set, Matteo got broken at love in game eight to hand the set to his opponent who looked determined to seal the deal as quickly as possible.
Delivering one good hold after another, Djokovic stood strong in the early stages of the second set as well, earning a break in game two after a double fault from Berrettini who found himself 4-0 down when Novak forced an error with a beautiful backhand crosscourt stroke.
After rattling off eight straight games, Djokovic lost focus a little bit to suffer a break in the fifth game, securing another successful return game a few minutes later thanks to a forehand winner and sealing the deal with another forehand winner in game seven for the best possible start of the campaign.