Misc Tennis

Can an Australian Open title settle Novak Djokovic’s GOAT claim once and for all?

Can an Australian Open title settle Novak Djokovic's GOAT claim once and for all?

MELBOURNE, Australia — Carlos Alcaraz was just 14 years old the last time Novak Djokovic lost a match at the Australian Open. It was 2018, in the fourth round, and unheralded South Korean Hyeon Chung produced the performance of a lifetime to take down Djokovic in straight sets. It remains one of the most shocking results in Grand Slam tennis history.

Since that day, Djokovic has been on an absolute tear. He has won 12 of the 20 majors he has contested, regained the world No. 1 ranking and more than doubled his career prize money, which now sits north of $180 million.

He has also remained unbeaten at the Australian Open and enjoyed four perfect runs to the title.

But despite all the dominance in the latter phase of his glittering career, and the fact that there continues to be a lack of consistent competition at the top of the men’s game, there have been minor hurdles. And while it may not have been extreme panic or concern, murmurings began to bubble after Djokovic’s unexpected loss to Alex de Minaur earlier this month at the United Cup in Perth.

Djokovic was soundly beaten 6-4, 6-4 by the 24-year-old Australian, his first loss Down Under since that match against Chung in 2018. The world No. 1 battled discomfort in his right wrist, twice calling for a physiotherapist during the first set. On the court, Djokovic struggled with his serve, producing an uncharacteristic number of unforced errors, and winning just 49 of the 117 points played.

Then, in his first-round match in Melbourne on Sunday, talented Croatian teenager Dino Prizmic tested him and at times looked to have the contest on his terms. Prizmic more than held his own in the baseline slugfest, showcasing his Djokovic-like defensive skills and an ability to attack at precisely the right time. But in the key moments it was Djokovic, once again, rising to the occasion, ultimately winning 6-2, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 to book a date with Australia’s Alexei Popyrin.

The Australian Open, after all, is Djokovic’s favorite and most successful event, and he has utterly dominated at Melbourne Park…

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