How Novak Djokovic won his 10th title in Melbourne

    Matt Walsh is a Melbourne-based sports journalist who willingly travels far and wide to watch any sport. Not only has he seen NFL in Dallas, football in London, baseball in Arlington and hockey in Boston, he’s covered F1, AFL, Wimbledon and the Australian Open for a number of media outlets.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic is a 10-time Australian Open champion. He’s drawn level with Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam titles won by a man (22). And he is still the king of Melbourne Park.

Djokovic was clinical in defeating No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets on Sunday night, only allowing the Greek a look at three break point opportunities throughout the entire 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) victory.

Djokovic hit 36 winners and just 22 unforced errors, while Tsitsipas was a little more wayward at times — particularly early — hitting 40 winners and 42 unforced errors.

Despite that, Tsitsipas managed to push Djokovic to two tiebreaks in the second and third sets, but fell behind early twice — and was subsequently punished by the 22-time Slam champion, who sealed the win in 2 hours and 56 minutes.

How the match was won

Djokovic settled into the match faster than Tsitsipas, and it was the difference for the rest of a match which was for the most part actually quite evenly poised thereafter. Tsitsipas was broken in just his second service game, but was laboring on serve the entire set. While Djokovic’s average service game spanned just 2 minutes and 35 seconds, Tsitsipas battled for an average of 3 minutes and 28 seconds in his service games.

To highlight how poor Tsitsipas was early (especially given Djokovic broke just one further time in the match — in the third set immediately after Tsitsipas broke him), his first serve percentage was languishing at just 43% through two service games, and his win rate on second serves (which he was showing to Djokovic 53% of the time) was just 25%.

It’s not the head start you want to give Djokovic in a Slam final. According to ESPN Stats & Information, going into Sunday’s final, if the Serbian champion won the first set of a Slam decider, he had a win-loss record of 13-3. (The only three losses in that time: the 2016 US Open final against Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open also against Wawrinka, and the 2014 French Open against Nadal.)

The champ wrapped up the first set 6-3 in just 36 minutes — an ominous warning to Tsitsipas, who, despite upping his level in the second (he had one set point on Novak’s serve) and third sets by forcing tiebreaks, was just a little below the quality and consistency of Djokovic the entire night.

Stat of the match

While Tsitsipas was struggling to settle, particularly in his service games early, Nadal was even more clinical than usual. Through his first seven service games — meaning, the entire first set, and his first service game of the second — his first serve percentage was at 76%. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that was on pace for the best rate throughout the tournament. Not only that, but when he landed his first serve, he was winning a staggering 95% of the points — up from his tournament average of 80%.

What it means

We would have had a new No. 1 no matter who had won the final, given incumbent Carlos Alcaraz pulled out of the Open on the eve of the tournament. Now, Djokovic will be back at No. 1 — the seventh time he will have taken the top spot in the rankings.

For Tsitsipas, it’s a second Slam final appearance without a win, but regardless, he moves up one spot to world No. 3 on Monday.

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