By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
Heading into Sunday morning’s Australian Open final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal it appeared an instant classic was coming.
After all the last time these two met in the finals in Melbourne the match last nearly six hours with Djokovic prevailing in five sets. Both players came into this year’s final seven years after that historic battle playing excellent tennis. Djokovic had dropped only two sets before Sunday while Nadal hadn’t dropped a set and had barely been tested throughout the two week event.
Then Sunday happened.
Djokovic dispatched Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in a match that barely lasted two hours. Even Nole himself admitted afterwards that his performance was perfect. It was Djokovic’s record seventh Australian Open crown and 15th Grand Slam overall. Nadal was looking for his second title in Melbourne.
There’s been some lopsided finals over the years. A straight sets win isn’t unheard of, but a swift beating of a fellow champion who was also playing at the top of his game?
That’s a scary thought for the rest of the ATP Tour.
With the win Djokovic passed Pete Sampras for third all-time on the men’s Grand Slam list. The two men in front of him are still playing, too. Nadal has 17 while Roger Federer sits atop the leaderboard with 20.
Seven months ago, Djokovic had 12 majors. After sweeping last year’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open events before winning the Aussie Open this weekend he’s closed the gap on the top two yet again. A year ago it was uncertain if Djokovic would ever compete at an elite level again after an elbow injury derailed most of his 2017 season.
Federer’s eight-slam lead on Djokovic now sits at just five. Only two titles separate Nadal and Djokovic. If the ATP has defending champions for the rest of 2019 Djokovic will trail Nadal by only a single major heading into 2020’s Australian Open, which Djokovic has owned for the better part of the last decade.
The three greatest players in the game have set seemingly untouchable records. And they’ve each done it in spite of the other two. All three have spent the majority of their illustrious careers battling one another. For years it’s felt as if the ATP Tour was comprised of merely a half dozen players.
And these guys aren’t done yet. Federer is only a year removed from his last title. Nadal won the French Open last year. Djokovic appears to be invincible.
It’s now an actual race to see which of these three will be atop the Grand Slam leaderboard when it’s all said and done.
And my guess is as good as yours.
Enjoy the ride.