Dubai: Novak Djokovic survived a big scare to claim his eighth Australian Open title against Dominic Thiem in Melbourne on Sunday.
The Serbian second seed had to call on all his experience to grind down the Austrian fifth seed 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Thiem was looking for his first ever Grand Slam trophy having twice lost in the French Open final to Rafael Nadal.
Standing in his way this time was the towering Serb world No. 2 Djokovic who was on the hunt for a historic eighth title at Melbourne Park.
Second-seeded Djokovic has still never lost a semi-final or final he’s contested at the Australian Open as he claimed a 17th Grand Slam title overall.
It was looking ominous for Thiem as Djokovic took the opening set 6-4 in 52 minutes, breaking Thiem’s serve in the last game.
But the Austrian bounced back to take the second set. Both players exchanged a break of serve to make it 4-4 before Thiem showed great resilience to break again and take it 6-4.
There was a spring in Thiem’s step and he rattled through the third set 6-2, leaving Djokovic shell-shocked and shaking his head.
The Serb is known for his resilience and he quickly composed himself to edge the fourth set, roared on by the crowd eager to see the decider. Djokovic pounced at 4-3 up for the only break of the set, and then served it out with an ace for 6-3.
And Djokovic got over the line thanks to an early break in the fifth, holding his serve to claim the silverware.
Thiem was the first to praise his opponent after the game.
"I would like to start with a huge congrats to Novak," he said. "It is an amazing achievement and congrats to all your team. It's unreal what you have been doing all these years. I'm proud and happy I can compete in these times and period of tennis. I fell short but I hope I can get revenge soon."
Thiem also pointed out there are bigger issues than tennis in the world right now, including the bushfires that have ravaged Australia.
"We also saw before and during the event there are more important things in life," he said. "We saw what this beautiful country had gone though. We saw all the people affected and the wildlife - we hope they can recover soon and a disaster like this never happens again."
Djokovic also took time out to address serious issues, including the death of NBA star Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash last week.
"There were some devastating things that started 2020, bushfires here in Australia, conflicts in parts of the world, one person that I considered close in my life and was a mentor to me, Kobe Bryant, passed away," said the Serb.
"I would like to say that this is a reminder to all of us we should stick together more than ever, be with our families, stay close to the people that love you, that care about you, there are more important things in life and it is important to be conscious and humble about things happening around you.
"This tournament sets a high standard for all the others, definitely my favourite in the world, and I am blessed to hold this trophy once again."
MOST GRAND SLAMS
1. Roger Federer 20
2. Rafael Nadal 19
3. Novak Djokovic 17
4. Pete Sampras 14
5. Roy Emerson 12