How Novak Djokovic won his 10th title in Melbourne

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic is a 10-time Australian Open champion. He has drawn level with Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam titles won by a man (22). And he is still the king of Melbourne Park.

Djokovic was clinical in defeating No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets Sunday night, allowing the Greek player only a look at three break-point opportunities throughout the entire 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) victory.

Djokovic hit 36 winners and just 22 unforced errors, while Tsitsipas was a little more wayward at times — particularly early on — hitting 40 winners and 42 unforced errors.

Despite that, Tsitsipas managed to push Djokovic to two tiebreaks in the second and third sets, but he fell behind early twice — and was subsequently punished by the 22-time Slam champion, who sealed the win in 2 hours and 56 minutes.

How the match was won

Djokovic settled into the match faster than Tsitsipas, and it was the difference for the rest of a match, which for the most part was quite evenly poised thereafter. Tsitsipas was broken only in his second service game but was laboring on serve the entire set. While Djokovic’s average service game spanned just 2 minutes and 35 seconds, Tsitsipas battled for an average of 3 minutes and 28 seconds in his service games.

To highlight how poorly Tsitsipas was playing early (especially given that Djokovic broke just one further time in the match — in the third set immediately after Tsitsipas broke him), his first serve percentage was languishing at just 43% through two service games, and his win rate on second serves (which he was showing to Djokovic 53% of the time) was just 25%.

It’s not the head start you want to give Djokovic in a Slam final. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, going into Sunday’s final, if the Serbian champion won the first set of a Slam decider, he had a win-loss record of 13-3. (The only three losses in that time: the 2016 US Open final against Stan Wawrinka; the 2015 French Open, also against Wawrinka; and the 2014 French Open against Nadal.)

The champ wrapped up the first set 6-3 in just 36 minutes — an ominous warning to Tsitsipas, who, despite upping his level in the second (he had one set point on Novak’s serve) and third sets by forcing tiebreaks, was just a little below the quality and consistency of Djokovic the entire night.

Stat of the match

While Tsitsipas was struggling to settle, particularly in his service games early, Nadal was even more clinical than usual. Through his first seven service games — meaning, the entire first set plus his first service game of the second — his first serve percentage was at 76%. According to ESPN Stats & Info research, that was on pace for the best rate throughout the tournament. Not only that but when he landed his first serve, he was winning a staggering 95% of the points — up from his tournament average of 80%.

What it means

We would have had a new No. 1 no matter who had won the final, given that incumbent Carlos Alcaraz pulled out of the Open on the eve of the tournament. Now, Djokovic will be back at No. 1 — the seventh time he will have taken the top spot in the rankings.

For Tsitsipas, it’s a second Slam final appearance without a win, but regardless, he’ll move up one spot to world No. 3 on Monday.

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