Novak Djokovic of Serbia poses with the trophy during the awarding ceremony for the men's singles final with Rafael Nadal of Spain at 2012 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan. 29, 2012. Djokovic won the champion by defeating Nadal 3-2. (Xinhua/Guo Yong)
Defending champion and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic won his third Australian Open title after beating ten-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal of Spain 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6- 7(5), 7-5 in a historic final here on Sunday.
Djokovic has now won five Grand Slam titles, four of which came from the latest five Grand Slams. He continued his recent domination over the second seeded Spaniard, having beaten him in their last seven meetings, all in finals.
"I'm playing against one of the greatest players ever. Nadal is so mentally strong and always comes up with his best game and best shots at the right moments," said Djokovic. "Unfortunately there had to only be one winner because we both gave it all. Unfortunately there couldn't be two winners."
It was Nadal's first time to lose a Grand Slam final after winning the first set. He broke Djokovic's serve game twice in the first set, which are the fifth and eleventh game.
"I wanted to win, but I'm happy about how I did. I had chances against the best player of the world today," said Nadal. "(I'm) so very happy about the beginning of the 2012 season. I'm happy I am in the real right way."
"I suffered during the match, but I enjoyed all the troubles that I had during all the match.
"I played more aggressive. I played with more winners than ever. My serve worked well. The mentality and the passion was there another time better than probably never another one," added Nadal. "So very happy for everything."
Djokovic managed to turn the match when Djokovic won to go 3-1 up with a superb volley after lucky netcord. But a double fault for the set allowed Nadal to bring it back to 5-4, only for the Spaniard to do the same in the next serve game and give the set to the Serbian.
Djokovic played his best tennis of the match in the third set. Nadal failed to adapt to the depth of Djokovic's groundstrokes, setting up winners for the Serbian as he broke twice en route to a 6-2 win in 45 minutes, the shortest set of the marathon final.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return to Rafael Nadal of Spain during their men's singles final at 2012 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan. 29, 2012. (Xinhua/Bai Xue)
The first seven games of the fourth set saw both players holding on to their serve. The turning point came with Nadal serving at 0-40 and 3-4 down when he somehow hit winners to collect five points in a row to level the match.
Then the rain fell and the game was delayed for several minutes until the roof closed, which gave both players to refresh.
Nadal powered back in the tiebreaker to go out of bounds when 3-2 up and Djokovic went on to win the following two points.
Nadal then won four straight points to win the tiebreaker and the fourth set. He dived to his knees, which he often did after victory, to celebrate taking the match to a fifth set.
Nadal looked more powerful in the fifth set and when he broke Djokovic in the sixth game it seemed that the extra 24 hours rest, plus the shorter semifinal, the Spaniard had was proving key.
Nadal defeated rival Roger Federer in a three hours and 42 minutes semifinal on Thursday while Djokovic won a four hours and 50 minutes match against Andy Murry on Friday.
Djokovic incredibly found his momentum back. After Nadal missed an easy winner to make the score 30-30, Djokovic used the returns he was hitting in the third set to take Nadal's serve.
Djokovic collapsed to the ground after hitting long the first point of the ninth game. But he still forced a break point in the game.
Nadal survived this one, but failed to hold another one in the 11th game, which made Djokovic to go 6-5 up.
Djokovic had great serves in the last game but still had to survive a break point before taking the title once again with a forehand winner.
The Serbian, who had won the title in 2008 and 2011 here, played a forehand winner to close up the five hours 53 minutes final, which is the longest final of the Open era, beating the four hours and 55 minutes U.S. Open final Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl played in 1988.
"The fact that we played almost six hours is incredible," said Djokovic. "Just to hear that is making me cry. I'm very proud to be part of this history, part of elite of the players that have won this tournaments for several times."
"I'm tired. Physically it was the toughest match I ever played," said Nadal. "We played a great tennis match. I enjoyed being part of this event and this match."
It is also the longest match in the history of Australain Open. The previous record was a 2009 semifinal between Nadal and Fernando Verdasco, which lasted five hours and 14 minutes.