WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde (The Freeman) - February 25, 2021 - 12:00am

And yet again, no man solves the puzzle that is Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open finals. The guy is unbeatable in Melbourne, winning all nine finals he played against a stunning array of heavyweights including Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal several times over.

Last Sunday was no different. In a final many expected to go the distance between two of the funnier men in tennis, Djokovic showed Daniil Medvedev it is the level he still needs to learn how to win. Rafa taught him the first lesson two years ago in the US Open where out of nowhere, Daniil forced but lost a pulsating fifth set decider.

But down under the Russian stomped every man who stood in the way to the finals. In the semis he ended the inspired campaign of Stefanos Tsitsipas who bucked a two sets to nothing deficit against Nadal in the quarterfinal, becoming only the second man to reverse such slam score line against the king of clay. Well, you can’t afford to watch Stefanos lose. The Greek looks familiar from a divine literary piece. But the Russian was unforgiving.

Elsewhere in the world, Roger Federer chuckles. Not because he plays with his two sets of twins, but out of relief he didn’t have to play to protect his shared position for the most number of slams with Nadal. But both are alarmed, Djokovic is just two slams behind, and he is youngest. Even Mallorcan clay dominance is in peril. If Novak plays the way he does now, he could transition from hard to clay supremacy. But not when Nadal is healthy.

But in grass, Djokovic already decoded the mastery of king Roger who for long reigned supreme, punctuated in the 2019 finals where he saved two match points and beat the Swiss Maestro pronto. I mean, it’s Roger Federer, a match point is and should be the final point. But then it is Novak too. While Federer has eight crowns at Wimbledon, Novak has five, not bad either. Even one is more than good enough. It’s Wimbledon, the slam of all slams. And Rafa has two. 

Just like Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, Medvedev is a serious, dangerous threat to the big three, but the Serb served great and returned greater. The Russian had no answers. Djokovic bubbled inside an impenetrable zone from game one to game done. Except for that tight first set, the last two sets were routine rout.

Effortless. But really, Novak is the coolest men’s finalist I’ve ever seen. The guy hardly perspires, be it straight or five sets, as opposed to Rafa who sweats like a river at the start of the match and Roger who cries like a river at the end of it. But even if Novak ties or even surpasses number twenty, he will still be a stranger to the Fedal category, two of the finest gentlemen in the men’s tour. Djoko is too, but not all gentlemen are easy to like. His antics are easier to laugh at though, especially when he mimics the service rituals of Maria Sharapova. But he can’t impersonate charisma. It is beyond emulation, unseen but felt, people are just drawn.

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