Novak Djokovic arranged an exceptional fightback after a mid-coordinate emergency to guarantee his eighth Australian Open title and come back to world No.1.
The Serb lost six back to back games in the wake of conflicting with French umpire Damien Dumusois – and furthermore called a clinical break to treat ailment.
However, without precedent for his profession, the green machine retaliated from two sets to one down in a Major last to beat Dominic Thiem 6 4-6 2 6-3 6-4 out of three hours and 59 minutes.
Djokovic has now won 17 Grand Slam titles – to close inside three of Roger Federer’s men’s record – and broadened the Big Three’s control of Majors to an unfortunate 13 for the more youthful age.
What’s more, the last three men’s Grand Slams finals have gone to five epic sets, with Wimbledon champion Djokovic winning two to underline his status as one of the best – if not generally well known – players ever.
The Serb had won his seven past Melbourne finals and appeared to be set to stretch out his record in the wake of cruising to the primary set in spite of advising the expert Thiem group to “Shut the **** up”.
However, serving to remain in the second set at 4-5, the protecting hero was hit with double cross infringement by umpire Dumusois – the second prompting lost his first serve on set point.
When Djokovic lost the game and the set, he contacted the Frenchman on the foot in wry congrats and stated: “Extraordinary employment man. Particularly the subsequent one. You put yourself on the map. Very much done.”
The Serb lost six games in succession from 4-4 to fall 0-4 down in the third set and required the specialist and mentor at the changeover at 1-4. His administration speeds were down and he was obviously battling as he more than once mentioned caffeinated drinks from his team.
Thiem, who was pounding his forehand, finally closed out the third set with his fourth set point to leave Djokovic facing a task he had never achieved – coming back from two sets to one in a Major finals.
He took a five-minute medical to leave the 26-year-old thinking about being one set away from his first Major title.
Chelsea fan Thiem had a break point to lead 2-1 in the fourth set but Djokovic fought back to hold and break the Austrian to lead 5-3 before levelling up the match with an ace. He made only five errors in the 42-minute set.
Djokovic broke to lead 2-1 in the decider – and the crucially saved two break points in the next game to go 3-1 up before taking his first match point when Thiem pulled a forehand wide.
Djokovic is the first man in Open era – and only second after Ken Rosewall – to win Grand Slam titles in three different decades.
“It was a tough match and you were close,” he said to Thiem in the presentation ceremony. I am sure you will one of the Grand Slam trophies, more than one. This is my favourite court and favourite staidum in the world and I am blessed to hold this trophy again.”
Djokovic wore KB and the numbers 24 and 8 with a heart on tracksuit top in tribute to his late friend Kobe Bryant – and he also mentioned the Australian bushfires.
“I would just like to say that this is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together more than ever now,” he said. “Stay close to the people who love you and care about you.”
The new world No.4 Thiem said: “Huge congats to Novak – amazing achievement. You and two other guys have brought tennis to a new level. I fell a little bit short today but I hope I can get revenge soon.”