Djokovic can be the greatest


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Novak Djokovic clasps his Australian Open trophy

So how was it for you? Has there ever been a match so painfully pleasurable? Five hours and 53 minutes of blistering tension that seemed like it would never end.

Such raw emotion, such unpredictablity, such effort, such athleticism and such heroism. Such beauty yet such brutality. It truly was something to behold.

The 2012 Australian Open tennis final will be remembered as an item of real drama that is unlikely to be easily upended in the cluttered world of professional sport. Certainly not this year.

Of course, it is easy to get carried away after such happenings yet it is much more difficult to escape an almost inevitable conclusion from what went on in a throbbing Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne: whatever is made of the greatness of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal over the past decade - and their ability is not in dispute at this juncture - Novak Djokovic is in prime position to establish himself as the finest player to pick up a racquet in anger.

Or fabulously crisp calmness, judging by his ability to muzzle a rampant Nadal during a breathless occasion Down Under that would have been deemed far-fetched if not so brutally honest.

Nadal is perhaps used to beating Roger Federer these days, but Djokovic is a different proposition. The man from Serbia continues to possess his own variety of kryptonite whenever he faces Nadal, which is no mean feat after Nadal threw the kitchen sink and then the washing machine at 'Djoker' yet still came up short shortly before 2am in the Aussie heat.

Djokovic had beaten Nadal on six previous occasions - and bruised him badly in the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open last year - but will surely derive greatest pleasure from getting the nod by such a slender margin.

With Nadal a break up in the final set and the crowd suddenly mimicking the experience of enveloping Rafa on a clay court in a Davis Cup tie in Barcelona, the strain on Djokovic was huge yet he found a way to come through. He came up with the answers to the conundrum in breaking back twice in snagging a richly deserved third title in Melbourne. Such a response is only reserved for true greats of the sport. Djokovic walks tall in this golden age of giants.

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Novak Djokovic celebrates his astonishing win

Federer has 16 Grand Slams tucked away, Nadal has ten such trinkets and Djokovic moves up to five. Novak is hardly the poor relation in third spot having clasped four out of the previous five majors in the sport.

Djokovic knows how to win, and crucially does not get flustered when the heat comes round the corner. These are key ingredients in a man of growing maturity at the age of only 24. Perhaps more impressive is his fitness in outlasting Murray in the semi-finals and Nadal in the final over ten titanic hours to snatch the trophy for a second straight year. There was never a chance that Djokovic would collapse despite his body language sometimes suggesting otherwise.

Let us not forget that Nadal had an extra 24 hours to prepare for this final than Djokovic. He was ready for such a war of attrition, but could not get enough grapeshot off to mortally wound his foe. Djokovic was never really on his haunches.

"Congratulations to Novak and his team, they deserve it, they are doing something fantastic," commented Nadal.

What price a seasonal sweep of the Grand Slams of Aussie, French, Wimbledon and US Open by Djoker? You could 40-1 on such a feat after he strode to the US Open last September, but the odds come tumbling down. He is suddenly 10/1 to make off with all four this year. Nadal in Paris is likely to be the one that stands between him and the whole blooming lot.


A special mention for Andy Murray.

Djokovic and Nadal will take huge encouragement from their efforts in the Australian Open for different reasons, but Britain's Murray should perhaps feels glad he has subscribed to Ivan Lendl's school of coaching.

Murray has lost the last two finals in Melbourne, but his defeat to Djokovic in five sets in the semi-finals was easily his best output from several such trips Down Under.

With a touch more good fortune, Murray could have taken Djokovic's place in the final. He is on the right track, and the remaining three Grand Slams of the season may yet bring real benefits for Murray under Lendl. Never has the Scot been quite so magnificent in defeat.


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Novak Djokovic's win is right on time


The final ran for five hours and 53 minutes. The previous longest final was Mats Wilander's win over Ivan Lendl in the 1988 US Open final that managed to make its way over four hours and 54 minutes. Nobody said it was going to be easy.


There are tournaments in Montpellier, Zagreb and Santiago on the men's tour this week, but it may take a few weeks to get over the shenanigans in Melbourne. Djokovic and Nadal could do with the rest to reflect on what just happened here. As could the rest of us.

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