The new edition of the Australian Open is just around the corner and the fans still remember the one-sided final from a year ago, a rather unexpected one! Novak Djokovic was there to fight for the title at beloved Major after suffering early losses in 2017 and 2018, eager to regain the crown and lift the seventh trophy in Melbourne.
Outside that tough encounter against Daniil Medvedev and a set he lost to Denis Shapovalov, Novak was the dominant figure on the court, producing his best tennis in the semis and the final to go all the way and lift the 15th Major trophy.
While his commanding victory over Lucas Pouille in the semi-final was expected, the crowd hoped for a much tighter battle for the crown with his great rival Rafael Nadal. Instead of another thrilling clash like they produced in 2012, Novak stood high above Rafa to beat him 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 and deliver the toughest Grand Slam final loss for the Spaniard who had never suffered a straight-sets loss in such important matches before.
Recalling the meeting with Rafa ahead of the new Australian Open campaign, Novak said he felt proud of the way he defeated Rafa, delivering a perfect performance and doing everything right on the court against such a grand champion.
Nadal hadn't lost a set before the title match, suffering only two breaks in six encounters and looking good to win the Australian Open for the first time in ten years. As always, the only problem for the Spaniard rested in the fact that Novak Djokovic was never an ordinary rival for him, failing to beat him outside clay since the final of the US Open in 2013!
Starting from Beijing that year, Djokovic scored 13 wins in 16 matches against Nadal for complete domination, extending the advantage in head to head encounters to 28-25 after Melbourne. It was a sublime performance from Djokovic that left Nadal completely powerless, having the upper hand from the very first point until the end.
Novak controlled the pace with a masterclass hitting from both wings, opening the court and moving the Spaniard from the comfort zone to tame his forehand and other strokes. Losing serve only twice before the final, Rafa 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 that was returning everything with depth and accuracy.
Like many times before, Nadal struggled in forehand-to-backhand exchanges that Novak could endure the whole day without losing the pace or momentum, sending missiles from both wings that left Nadal unarmed. Rafa's first serve didn't exist on that day, winning miserable 51% of the points after landing it in, playing better on the second serve but still suffering five breaks from eight opportunities offered to Novak.
The Serb was on another level in the serving department, dropping meaningless 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. "Rafa was in great form ahead of the Australian Open 2019 final; he hadn't dropped a set the entire tournament and the way I played against him was just amazing; I was very proud.
It's one of those days where everything works your way perfectly; I was in the flow and played my best tennis," Djokovic said.