(Photo: ATP Tour)
There was a moment at two sets to one down when it looked as if Novak Djokovic’s grip on the Australian Open trophy might be prised open by Dominic Thiem. Having won the first set 6-4, the Serbian looked in trouble having lost the second 6-4 and the third 6-2.
However, the moment was short-lived as the 32-year-old retained his title, his eighth in Australia, in a thrilling five-set 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Heading into this clash, the duo had faced each other ten times previously – Djokovic winning six and Thiem four. However, it was the Austrian who had the upper hand in their last two matches, beating the Serbian at last year’s French Open semi-finals and in the ATP Finals’ round robin.
Intriguingly, in this encounter on Rod Laver Arena, both players made the same number of unforced errors (57) while Thiem hit more winners (55) than Djokovic (46). It shows just how close the match was that there were 12 break point opportunities for each player with them taking five apiece.
On serve in the fourth set entering the eighth game, Djokovic broke Thiem in what felt like a momentum-swinging moment. Serving for the set, the Serbian won it to love to ensure the Austrian was well and truly on the backfoot.
Djokovic’s opportunity to take hold of the fifth and final set came much earlier – in the third game, in fact. Once he broke Thiem and took a 3-1 lead – having denied his opponent on two break point opportunities which could have swung the match back in the Austrian’s favour – there was an air of inevitability about his victory, which would eventually come in the match’s 240th minute.