Hobbled Djokovic pulls off historic Open escape
Novak Djokovic has contrived a miracle Australian Open escape, scrambling to a dramatic five-set triumph over Dominic Thiem in one of the most gripping grand slam finals in history.
Edging closer to greatest of all-time acclaim with a record eighth Melbourne Park title, Djokovic faces almost certain censure following a controversial 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 victory marred by a clash with French umpire Damien Dumusois.
Seemingly in cruise mode, Djokovic grabbed Dumusois' foot on the changeover after losing serve in the ninth game of the second set.
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Livid after earning successive time code violations for taking too long to serve, Djokovic - president of the ATP player council - could be fined up to $30,000 for making contact with Dumousis.
Grand slam rules define physical abuse as "the unauthorised touching of an official, opponent, spectator or other person."
The episode underlined Djokovic's frustrations as he struggled to deal with fitness issues as Thiem turned the match on its head to eventually lead by two sets to one before the Serb regrouped.
Djokovic had earlier clashed with Dumusois after being disturbed by mid-rally comments from the spectators, prompting the Serb to yell "shut the f… up" at a pro-Thiem crowd.
In desperate trouble mid-match, Djokovic tapped into renewed energy to deny Thiem before adding the 2020 Norman Brookes Challenge Cup trophy to those lifted in 2008, 2011-13, 2015-16 and 2019.
Only the second man in history along with Ken Rosewall to win majors in three different decades, Djokovic's 17th grand slam crown leaves him on the heels of Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19).
At 32, and armed with 78 career titles, Djokovic is at the peak of his powers.
Tested on Rod Laver Arena which has become a personal fortress with 75 wins from 83 matches, Djokovic extended the Big Three's reign to 13 consecutive majors.
No other player outside Djokovic, Federer and Nadal has secured a grand slam singles title since Stan Wawrinka at the 2016 US Open.
Djokovic joins Nadal (12 French trophies) and Federer (eight Wimbledon crowns) as the only men in history to snare the same major eight or more times.
This was the first time in Djokovic's burnished career he has won a grand slam final after trailing by two sets to one.
He appeared disconsolate and destined for defeat after snarling at Dumusois in the second set.
"Great job man. You made yourself famous, well done," Djokovic told the Frenchman.
"You made your mark on this match."
Pushed to the absolute limit by Thiem's power and precision, Djokovic found a solution where most players would have plummeted to defeat.
The match-deciding service break came in the third game of the deciding set when Thiem's forehand malfunctioned.
From there, Djokovic clawed his way to one of the most hard-fought successes of his career.
With 46 winners and 57 unforced errors to Thiem's 55 and 57, Djokovic needed a minute shy of four hours to tame the brave underdog.