February 26, 2024

La Ronge Northerner

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Novak Djokovic wins his tenth Australian Open men’s singles title

Novak Djokovic wins his tenth Australian Open men’s singles title

When Djokovic plays as he did in the second week of this tournament, his game is all about the firsts. Sending the first line gives him the first point in service games. The first break of his opponents serve becomes the first dagger, and the first combination wins for the player who rarely lets anyone crawl back into the match.

He does not allow opponents to catch their breath, hits them hard in the shins, and forces them to make another shot, and then another after they think they have won a point. Tennis is a form of suffocation. Tommy Poole, the American who was a victim of Djokovic in the semi-finals, said as he finished that much of the first set was a blur. Paul has played tennis his whole life, but this time, the seconds between points, between the moment he hit the ball and then he was running chasing the next ball, didn’t go that fast.

Andrei Rublev, a Russian with a fearsome forehand and serve, walked down the hallway in the minutes before being called onto the court. He’s played Djokovic three times before and even beat him once, but it wasn’t until he faced him at Rod Laver Arena that he faced an even more indomitable version of Djokovic than he’d seen in the past.

β€œHe was playing better,” said a stunned Rublev when it was over. “I do not know what to say.”

In the fourth round, Alex de Minaur, who was playing in front of a hometown crowd willing to cheer him into battle, won only five matches. After De Minaur’s demolition, Djokovic told the Serbian press that playing against an Australian in Australia prompted him for what the country’s government had done to him the previous year, detaining and deporting him because of his bad reputation and his stance against mandatory vaccinations.

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But the task of redeeming Djokovic in Australia was fraught with danger. Prior to the tournament, he aggravated his hamstring, forcing him to take the court wearing a thick bandage around the injured area until the final match. He faltered during the first week, playing without the magic move that is the foundation of his game.

And then, as with many of his previous injuries, the combination of rest, massage, and pain relievers made the pain and discomfort melt away when it mattered most. He heard noises on social media wondering if his leg had ever been hurt at all, and he responded by saying that no one questions the validity of other players’ injuries β€” an indistinct reference to the always agitated Nadal β€” only him.