The Gap Widens as Djokovic stuns Rafa. Day 14 – Australian Open 2019.

That was an absolute masterclass from Nole today. I haven’t given him enough credit over his career but this was a fantastic performance. Was there really any let-up or blip here? I can’t remember it. An immaculate display from start to finish that oozed supremacy.

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It cropped up in my head during the comfortable and one-way straight sets win ‘what must Tsitsipas be thinking?’. The Greek lad had put Rafa on a different level saying “He makes you play bad”. Adding it was a gift. I didn’t disagree. Then three days later you are reminded that though that may be true, Djokovic does exactly the same to Nadal when they play. Maybe Stefanos isn’t that worried as it is a different matchup for him but for Rafa, it is now a confirmed issue.

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This is not something that is necessarily a new phenomenon for us. In my Friday blog, I referenced that Rafa had not beaten Djokovic outside of clay since the US Open Final in 2013 and that Djokovic had won their last eight non-clay court encounters. It was 12-3 since that meeting in NYC. This was a new look Rafa though and it should be an absolute classic. It wasn’t just me that believed that would be the case. Mats Wilander was adamant that keeping the points shorter would be a winning formula.

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So high is Djokovic’s level of returning and the fact that he is happy to trade with Spaniard (unlike any other tennis player), therefore it took the serve out of the equation. It made Rafa feel so uncomfortable that errors off the forehand side were happening with regularity. You have to bear in mind this is no ordinary player, this is Nadal missing routine forehands. Unheard of. Rafa was basically all over the place in his head, there was no response. There was no winning formula. Something he attributed to his injuries of late, meaning that his offensive game had been worked on but he hadn’t been able to do so much on the defensive as a result. He was also in full acknowledgement that at 100% he would have struggled today and just how good Nole was.

It is a record seventh title in Melbourne for Djokovic, he overtakes Roy Emerson and Roger Federer on six to go to the top of the charts Down Under. Nole also now holds the last three slams. Can he knock Rafa off his perch again in Paris to land all four? Right now it would appear so.

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Andy Del Potro

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