Rafael Nadal: 'Novak Djokovic loss in Melbourne wasn't the worst moment of 2019'
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 31216
Rafael Nadal was the player of the season behind us, winning two Majors and two Masters 1000 titles to leave Novak Djokovic behind him. The Spaniard had failed to reach the semi-final only twice and was the most consistent player of the year, the fact that brought him the fifth year-end no.
1 honor. Things were not that great for Rafa in the first four and a half months, suffering three straight losses on clay in the semi-final and his worst defeat in Major finals in Melbourne when Novak Djokovic toppled him in straight sets.
Still, Nadal doesn't think that was the worst moment of his season, playing well in the first six matches and reaching a Major final after being sidelined since the semi-final of the US Open 2018 with a knee injury. Novak ousted Rafa 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and four minutes to enter the record books and claim the seventh crown in Melbourne.
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.
"Novak had played on an incredible level in Melbourne but I never thought it would be easy for him to claim all four Majors in 2019. Of course, in absolute terms, Novak would have the ability to do it, but there are so many good players and the year is long and challenging.
In any case, that Australian Open defeat was not my worst moment of the season. I had been behind throughout the whole match and couldn't have any regrets. In fact, I think I hadn't assumed all of the changes in my game - especially the serve since I was using a new technique to start this season, which had worked well on the previous six matches - when I played against Novak in the final."