The 2012 Australian open is memorable for the 2 marathon matches that were played during the tournament. The top four seeds duly made it to the semifinals and the organizers could not have asked for a better outcome. Roger Federer faced his arch rival Rafael Nadal in a blockbuster semifinal and Novak Djokovic, the defending champion was pitted against Andy Murray.
All eyes were on the Federer-Nadal match naturally as they already played an epic in the 2009 Australian open final. Though Federer started the match in sublime form, Nadal fought his way back and won rather comfortably in 4 sets. The other semi final though was an instant classic. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were in top form and scorched the Rod Laver Arena with scintillating ground strokes. They produced sublime tennis for nearly five hours and it was the Serb who held his nerve and made it to the final. The stage was set for a showdown between the top 2 seeds and the two best tennis players of the world at the time.
It was a dream final of sorts with both men in prime form. Their rivalry was at its peak and a grand slam final between these two was quickly becoming the norm. It was the third successive grand slam final for the pair and the Spaniard had a score to settle with the Serb winning the Wimbledon and the US Open previous year. It was a mouth watering clash. It was quite evident from the outset that this match could go the distance just like the Murray-Djokovic semifinal. No one quite knew at that point that it was going to be longest grand slam final in tennis history.
Rafael Nadal looked menacing from the start. Djokovic was a bit out of sorts in the first set and it seemed that he was still reeling from the after effects of the long and taxing semifinal against Murray. But he still fought from a break down to even the match and looked set to push to first set to a tiebreak. But Nadal found rhythm just when he needed to and broke Djokovic in the 11th game and then held serve to take the crucial first set.
Djokovic was unfazed and started playing more aggressively, hitting winners at will from way behind the baseline. Nadal had no answer to the Serb’s attack and gifted the second set with an uncharacteristic double fault. The defending champion found his groove and played some phenomenal tennis in the 3rd set. It was all one way traffic as Djokovic claimed the 3rd set 6-2. It seemed impossible for the Spaniard to reverse the tide against a rampant opponent. Three break points down, Nadal was staring at defeat in the eighth game of the 4th set . It looked done and dusted. Just then, Nadal did the unthinkable. He saved all 3 break points with unbelievable winners and held his serve. He survived an almighty scare but came out of it doubly energized. He won the set in a tight tie break and pushed the match to the deciding set.
Both players were hell bent on winning this match. They were literally pushing their bodies to the limits. The fifth set was a match of attrition. Everyone watching the game could feel their bodies aching from the stretch and strain. Half way through the fifth set, it seemed as if they were running on empty. At one point, after a 31 stroke rally, Djokovic just collapsed and it took a while for him to get back to his feet. It was staggering to see two men fighting so hard on a tennis court. Despite Nadal’s lionhearted effort, Djokovic was able to break the Spaniard’s serve in the 11th game and then held his own after saving a break point. It looked as if the misery ended for both men. It would take weeks for their bodies to recover from the grueling match. The memories of the match though will stay with us for a lifetime.
From retiring midway through the match against Andy Roddick in the 2009 Australian open to winning the longest grand slam final in tennis history, life has come a full circle for Novak Djokovic. He showed the world that with dedication and perseverance, nothing is impossible to achieve.
Trivia: The match lasted for 5 hours and 53 minutes and became the longest grand slam final in tennis history bettering the previous longest match(1988 US Open final between Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl) by almost an hour.