Djokovic beats Nadal to win Australian Open
MELBOURNE -- World No. 1 Novak Djokovic won his third Australian Open title in the early hours of Monday when he outlasted Spain's Rafa Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5 in an epic five hour, 53 minute match.
Djokovic, who won the title at Melbourne Park in 2008 and 2011, has now won five grand slam titles in total and continues his recent domination over the Spaniard, having beaten him in their last seven meetings, all in finals.
Djokovic fought back from losing the first set to take a 2-1 lead, but he was then taken to a gripping fifth set by resurgent Nadal before winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 for his third consecutive major title.
Nadal saved three break points in the eighth game of the fourth set then waited out a 10-minute rain break before taking the fourth set 7-6.
Nadal had been facing the distinct possibility of defeat within five minutes when he was reduced to 0-40 while trailling 3-4 in the set but produced a fantastic backhand pass and three massive serves to claw his way back into the match, which prompted the crowd to break into tumultuous chants of "Rafa".
The players were then forced off the court as officials shut the roof on Rod Laver Arena after rain swept across central Melbourne and the ball boys and girls scrambled around on their knees with towels to dry the court.
Nadal then fed off the crowd that had swung behind him and, after seemingly been down and out returned to his fist pumping, competitive best and took the tiebreak 7-5 to send the match into a decider.
Djokovic had raced through the third set 6-2 as he began to wear the Spaniard down.
Djokovic set the tone when he blasted through the first game and held serve to love and while he had no break points on Nadal's first service game of the set, the Spaniard was forced to battle as the Serb forced three deuce points.
The world number one continued the pressure on Nadal's serve in the fourth game when he sealed the important break and then consolidated for a 4-1 lead when he again held his own serve to love.
Djokovic, who was stepping inside the court and attacking Nadal's top-spin forehand while compelling the Spaniard to play from deep behind the baseline, again pressured Nadal on serve then held his own serve to love to take a 5-2 lead.
He sealed the set when he broke Nadal to love in the next game and the momentum had definitely swung towards the defending champion.
Djokovic only dropped two points on serve in the 45-minute third set.
Djokovic's powerful forehand finally started to find its range as grabbed the second set 6-4 to level the match.
The Serb also put pressure on Nadal's serve at every opportunity and broke in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead.
Nadal, though, had won the point of the match when he produced a stunning running backhand top-spin drive down the line that brought the crowd to their feet after a 15-shot rally that swept back and forth across the court.
Djokovic was serving for the set but was broken when he held two set points before he seized back the initiative in the next game and broke Nadal again to level when the Spaniard served his second double fault.
Nadal broke the world number one twice in an error-ridden first set before he won it 7-5 to take the early lead.
Djokovic suffered a slight scare in the fourth game when he went over on his right ankle after attempting a slide, and went down to his haunches before he began to flex and roll it in circles at the end of the game.
Both players failed to really settle or stamp their authority on the match, though Djokovic had more opportunities to break the Spaniard's serve.
After breaking in the fifth game Nadal had to fight off Djokovic twice before the Serb broke in the eighth game, though Nadal seized back the advantage in the 11th game and sealed the opener on his third set point when a backhand return floated long. -- Reuters and Agence France-Presse