Novak Djokovic’s win in Australia proves that the reign of the Big 3 continues unabated

Serbia's Novak Djokovic smiles as he sits beside the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup trophy during a press conference after beating Austria's Dominic Thiem in their men's singles final match on day fourteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 3, 2020. (Photo by John DONEGAN / AFP) / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE (Photo by JOHN DONEGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic smiles as he sits beside the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup trophy during a press conference after beating Austria's Dominic Thiem in their men's singles final match on day fourteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 3, 2020. (Photo by John DONEGAN / AFP) / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE (Photo by JOHN DONEGAN/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Novak Djokovic won a record 8th Australian Open grand slam, the undisputed “king of Australia.” With the Big 3 still holding court in the majors, the frustrations of the nextgen continue.

Novak Djokovic put the finishing touches on a crown he has worn in Australia for the last 12 years, defeating Austrian Dominic Thiem in five endurance sets, 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic raced out of the gate at the outset of the match, surging to a 3-0 lead in ruthless fashion against the 26-year-old Thiem, who was likely battling nerves in his first hard-court grand slam final. However, the Austrian, ranked No. 5 (and to move up to No. 4 on Monday), recouped his confidence and found his way back into the match, making it a contest where the Serbian was still able to control the outcome.

Thiem’s potential to exert his authority over the momentum of the contest manifested throughout. He overpowered and outplayed the 17-time slam champ in the middle two sets, leaving Djokovic winded and dehydrated. The 26-year-old had an opportunity to capitalize in the fourth set.

But to outlast the best, to maintain the mental fitness in five sets, and the power of belief is what makes a grand slam champion. After a medical timeout and a tussle with the chair umpire, the 32-year-old Djokovic emerged like a victorious gladiator in the fourth to take back the set and force the fifth decider.

And just like that, Djokovic left Dominic Thiem in the dust.

"“I think it’s only small details. In the last two finals — US Open and here — it was really close. It could have gone either way for Daniil in US Open [against Nadal] and for me here,” Thiem said about the strides of nextgen players, referencing  Medvedev’s close five-setter against Nadal, according to Yahoo! Sports.“It takes nothing more than just little bit of luck, little details here and there.”“Maybe if I converted the break point in the fourth set, maybe I’m sitting here as a winner. It just takes hard work.”"

The 17th grand slam win for Novak Djokovic puts him within striking distance of the GS race that only three individuals can participate in. Roger Federer sits at 20, with Rafael Nadal right behind at 19. All three are active on the Tour and Fed’s lofty tally is perhaps the most vulnerable. Like Nadal at Roland Garros, Novak has won every final he’s played in Australia. He now joins the eight + slam group, alongside Nadal’s 12 French Opens, Martina Navratilova’s nine Wimbledons, and Federer’s 8 Wimbledon’s. You can read more of Djokovic’s impressive stats here.

The 17th slam win only proves that just the Big 3 can muster the mental fortitude, ability to withstand the pressure, and endurance required to achieve the grand Cuvee in tennis, a five-sets Major.

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Perhaps less popular than the venerated Federer and Nadal, Novak Djokovic also has to contend with the crowd not always behind him.

The Rod Laver arena certainly was pulling for Thiem to achieve his breakthrough slam, but Djokovic has learned to power through the wall of disbelievers before. It hasn’t hampered his ability to claw back into a match in the past, and it certainly didn’t do that this time either.

The win in Melbourne will propel Novak Djokovic to the top of the ATP rankings on Monday. Nadal and Federer will remain where they are. Both are still playing their peak tennis. Federer was within two points of achieving his 21st slam at Wimbledon last year and was a semifinalist in Australia. There are no doubts that Nadal will lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires once more for the 13th time in Paris. Is it any wonder that the next generation of tennis players just can’t get a break?

“These guys [Djokovic, Nadal and Federer] have brought tennis to a completely new level,” Thiem said afterward, via The Guardian. “They also brought me probably to a much better level. I hope that I win my maiden slam when they’re still around because it will just count more.”

The time of the Big 3 is far from over. The quest for grand slams still remains only a three-man race.