• Australian Open, Day 14

Djokovic emulates the Hulk as records tumble

ESPN staff
January 29, 2012
Novak Djokovic still had the energy to rip off his shirt after nearly six hours on court © PA Photos
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Djokovic defends Australian Open crown
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Serving up a treat
After Rafael Nadal's thrilling semi-final victory over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic's five-hour epic against Andy Murray, the final had a lot to live up to as the best two players in the world went head-to-head for a third successive grand slam final. And they didn't disappoint, producing a dramatic final that went to the wire as Djokovic eventually triumphed 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5 in five hours and 53 minutes.

Value for money
With fans playing 369.90 Australian dollars (about £250) for a ticket for the men's final, Djokovic and Nadal ensured the spectators got their money's worth, serving up a 353-minute thriller on Rod Laver Arena. It was gone midnight when Nadal won the fourth-set tiebreak, but there was barely an empty seat as fans stayed out late on Sunday night to witness the longest match in Australian Open history.

Breaking the streak
Before the final, Nadal had lost just one of his 134 grand slam matches after winning the opening set - that one defeat coming at the hands of compatriot David Ferrer at the 2007 US Open when Ferrer claimed a 6-7(3) 6-4 7-6(4) 6-2 victory in the fourth round. However, despite grabbing a late break to close out the opening set, Nadal fell to an agonising five-set defeat to suffer a seventh-straight defeat to Djokovic.

Easier said than done
After Murray let a winning advantage slip from his grasp in his semi-final defeat to Djokovic, Nadal suggested Murray could have done more to press home his advantage and finish the job. Nadal was a break up in the final set, but Djokovic roared back to snatch victory. Easier said than done, eh Rafa?

Turning point
Having come within two points of defeat in the fourth set, Nadal grabbed an early break and was firmly on course for victory in the final set. Serving to take a 5-2 lead in the decider, Nadal snatched at a backhand with the court at his mercy to open the door for Djokovic. The Serb broke back, and the rest, as they say is history.

24 hours after her victory over Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka was back on Rod Laver Arena to watch the men's final © Getty Images
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Nadal challenges...Nadal
With Nadal trailing in the second set, the Spaniard was prepared to try anything to claw his way back. When Djokovic hit a blistering return winner, Nadal challenged the call on his own serve in a hope of replaying the point. It was to no avail, as the serve, like the return, was spot on.

Bird's eye view
HawkEye may have been in regular use at this year's Australian Open, but it was the gulls that momentarily stole the show on Rod Laver Arena. With Nadal serving to stay in the first set, a flock of gulls found their way into the court as the crowd momentarily allowed themselves to take their eyes off the court.

Costume change
After a sloppy backhand handed Nadal the break in the opening set, a furious Djokovic pulled off his shirt and slammed his racket on the ground in disgust. Previously sporting a white shirt, the world No. 1 decided a change of shirt was in order, and opted for a more menacing-looking black top, which provided almost instant results as he broke back. Although Djokovic lost the opening set, he won the next two sets to take command of the match.

Broady does Djokovic a favour
British junior Liam Broady is often called upon to hit with Nadal at grand slams, but the 18-year-old, who won the boys' doubles title with Joshua Ward-Hibbert on Friday, hit with Djokovic ahead of the final. With Broady being a lefty, the practice certainly paid off as Djokovic triumphed in thrilling fashion.

Never giving in
Djokovic was just five points away from victory after forging three break points in the fourth set, but Nadal dug deep to save all three; the first with a penetrating forehand, the second with a mammoth serve and the third with an inch-perfect backhand. Two big serves saw the Spaniard roar with delight (and relief) as he held on as the momentum swung in Nadal's favour.

Rain dance
Having just saved his bacon, Nadal realised it had began to rain, and began gesturing furiously at the sky like he was the only person who had noticed. An enforced break ensued while the roof was closed. After a brief delay and a much-deserved breather, Nadal returned to the court and won a fourth set tiebreak to force the match to a tiebreak.

Bethanie busts a gut
Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Horia Tecau nearly didn't play in the mixed doubles, but after signing up at the 11th hour, beat Leander Paes and Elena Vesnina to claim their maiden grand slam title on a champions tiebreak. With all to play for in the super-tiebreak, Mattek-Sands gave it everything to stretch for a shot, curling the ball around the post before crashing into the linejudge. They won the point, and the match. As far as we are aware, the linejudge did not suffer any real damage.

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