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Djokovic crushes Nadal for record seventh Australian Open title and 15th major

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating Spain's Rafael Nadal in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

(CNN) — Seven years ago at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic battled past Rafael Nadal in a historic, marathon final.

On Sunday it was the same end result but more like a 20-meter sprint thanks to Djokovic’s brilliance.

The Serb crushed a shell-shocked Nadal in front of a stunned Rod Laver Arena 6-3 6-2 6-3 to become the first man in Australian Open history to amass seven titles.

That five hour, 53-minute contest in 2012 that at times left both men gasping for air and led to, unusually, organizers giving them chairs during the trophy presentation? Nowhere to be found.

Djokovic needed a mere two hours, four minutes to see off Nadal in what was the most lopsided men’s final in Melbourne in games since Andre Agassi surrendered five to Germany’s Rainer Schuettler in 2003.

Djokovic won all but 13 of his service points, registering 34 winners overall and a minuscule nine unforced errors.

He took sole possession of third place on the all-time men’s list with 15 majors — passing Agassi’s chief rival Pete Sampras — and pulled to within two of Nadal and five of leader Roger Federer.

Second ‘Novak Slam?’

Furthermore, if Djokovic wins the French Open in June — and that is certainly a possibility despite Nadal’s prowess at Roland Garros — the 31-year-old would complete the “Novak Slam” of capturing four consecutive majors for a second time.

Yes, this is the same Djokovic who plummeted outside the top 20 last year following elbow surgery and a general malaise.

Federer and Nadal are usually the first two players mentioned in discussions of the men’s “Goat” — greatest of all time — but Djokovic is seriously butting in.

Federer and Nadal have never won four straight majors and Djokovic also holds winning records against both, now 28-25 against the Mallorcan.

And this was supposed to be a Nadal in form.

The left-hander — armed with a new service motion — didn’t come close to dropping a set en route to the final and had only been broken in one match, his opener against Australia’s James Duckworth.

Yet Nadal, in his first tournament since the US Open due to ever more injuries, faced a considerable step up in competition from the six others he swatted away at Melbourne Park.

He will have to wait, again, to become the first man in the Open Era to bag each of the majors at least twice.

No stranger to injury heartbreak at the Australian Open, perhaps this defeat won’t hurt Nadal as much since he was never really into the match. It was unlike in 2012, when he rallied to force a fifth set and led the decider 4-2.

No other player has ever got into Nadal’s head like the world No. 1.

Flying start

Djokovic came out flying, while Nadal was clearly tentative.

He only conceded one point in the first three games and only gave up one point on serve in the entire first set.

He smothered Nadal, who, seemingly frazzled by his own start, showed little of his previous sparkle.

To sum up his woes, Nadal even whiffed on a forehand in the seventh game of the first.

That first set was always going to be pivotal. Djokovic held a 17-1 record against the Spaniard when winning the first set away from Nadal’s favored clay, with the solitary reverse coming courtesy of a retirement at Wimbledon in 2007.

Shots Nadal executed with little fuss turned into unforced errors, much like when Federer would err on seemingly simple shots in a phase when Nadal bossed their head-to-heads.

A case in point came on Nadal’s lone break point at 2-3 in the third. With time to rip a backhand cross court, he sent his drive into the net.

A psychological battle, this tennis.

Djokovic has now beaten Nadal in eight straight hard-court outings and in nine of their past 11 matches overall, aided by a crosscourt backhand that his foe might have nightmares about.

Nadal sent a backhand long on a second championship point, before shaking umpire James Keothavong’s hand, then Djokovic’s.

Djokovic proceeded to drop to his knees at Rod Laver Arena in celebration.

He was again the king of Melbourne and is still the king of the tennis world.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.