Thursday, September 16News That Matters

BORIS BECKER: Novak Djokovic showed why he is such an extraordinary player

Novak Djokovic‘s genius showed itself in the key moments of the Australian Open final, being able to lock in his game when he needed it most.

And until the upcoming generation start matching him in that department you can expect the established champions to keep cleaning up at the biggest championships.

Daniil Medvedev was right in the match late in the first set, and then got a break early in the second. Both times you saw Djokovic being able to summon up his best, most solid tennis while his opponent went in the opposite direction.

Australian Open men's singles winner Novak Djokovic showed his genius in the final match

Australian Open men's singles winner Novak Djokovic showed his genius in the final match

Australian Open men’s singles winner Novak Djokovic showed his genius in the final match

What we saw was a mental and tactical masterclass from the Serb, and the younger challengers just do not have that same maturity right now.

Djokovic did not want to get sucked into long rallies from the baseline so he took the initiative and was aggressive from the start. It messed up Medvedev’s rhythm and the result was a more one-sided victory than predicted.

The battle for the most Grand Slams between the three greatest players continues. Now he is within two of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal the nine-time Australia champion is moving up and poised to overtake them.

He is a year younger, which is significant. My view is that Federer is still capable of winning Wimbledon and that Nadal is still the favourite for the French Open.

The Serb beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in Melbourne to land his 18th major title in total

The Serb beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in Melbourne to land his 18th major title in total

The Serb beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in Melbourne to land his 18th major title in total

Yet, as I mentioned in this column two weeks ago, Melbourne is key for Novak in setting up his whole year psychologically as much as anything. If he had not won it, the blow would have been massive after what happened at the US and French Open.

Not that I think the younger generation are without hope when it comes to turning this situation around, and there was definitely some vulnerability in Nadal if we think forward to Paris. His five-set defeat by Stefanos Tsitsipas will sting for some time, and could even be a factor at the French Open.

For the first time I can recall Rafa looked really tired in that fifth set, he was beaten physically, and the others will have seen that.

The Spaniard’s style is so physical that it is going to take a toll. I am actually surprised that he has played to this incredibly high level for so long. While it would be foolish to bet against him for Paris, when he gets that little step slower he will not be the same player.

Medvedev (right) was outclassed psychologically and he is not quite yet at the very top level

Medvedev (right) was outclassed psychologically and he is not quite yet at the very top level

Medvedev (right) was outclassed psychologically and he is not quite yet at the very top level

The players you would expect to eventually knock them off the top are most obviously Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, Tsitsipas and Alex Zverev. I would also include Andrey Rublev.

Although it did not show in yesterday’s final I still like Medvedev’s attitude the best. In terms of talent and natural power Zverev is the leader for me. He was the better player for much of his quarter final against Djokovic, but lost concentration when it mattered.

We come back to the issue of seizing the moment. Djokovic’s ability to do that again and again is why he is such an extraordinary player.

Naomi Osaka is becoming more than just a tennis player, and that is great for women’s tennis.

Their side of the game has been crying out for a leader to take over from Serena Williams, and she has arrived. Not just a player who looks better than the pack right now, but as a confident young woman prepared to speak out on wider issues – she is looking like a genuine superstar.

In terms of her tennis success it has been largely limited to hard courts, but I am sure she will win Wimbledon one day – she is much more likely to triumph there than at the French Open with the way she plays.

Naomi Osaka could be the leader to take on the mantle from legendary player Serena Williams

Naomi Osaka could be the leader to take on the mantle from legendary player Serena Williams

Naomi Osaka could be the leader to take on the mantle from legendary player Serena Williams

She just has to learn how to play on grass, because she has the natural weapons to excel on it. What I also like about her is that she seems able to smell the big moment and go in for the kill, like Djokovic.

I was also surprised by Jennifer Brady, who looks a definite top five player to me. But Osaka is currently in her own bracket, and as Serena fades it is very timely that there is someone to step into her shoes.

Nick Kyrgios and I have had our differences but I have to say I was impressed with on-court attitude at this tournament, his five-setter with Dominic Thiem was among the matches of the fortnight.

I have always thought that he should win Wimbledon at least once with the huge talent at his disposal. With that serve and his quick game there is so much that he could achieve. Whether he does that is going to be down to one person – Nick himself.

Nick Kyrgios' on-court attitude at the tournament was impressive and he showed his talent

Nick Kyrgios' on-court attitude at the tournament was impressive and he showed his talent

Nick Kyrgios’ on-court attitude at the tournament was impressive and he showed his talent

We are living in difficult times with special requirements but I hope this idea of not having any line judges is not one that survives the pandemic. I miss the human dimension they provide on the court and it is important for the whole show.

Technology is improving so fast that we may come soon to a point where you don’t even need an umpire, that would not be a good road to go down. We have all had our share of disagreements with officials over the years but let’s not take more of the human element out of the game.

As fan of different sports beyond tennis, like football and skiing, being able to watch them through the pandemic has been very important for people. It has for me.

So I salute Craig Tiley, head of Tennis Australia, in particular for managing to get this tournament on and keep everything going under the most difficult of circumstances. The way he has kept his saintly patience with dealing with everything from players to local government has been incredible.

Head of Tennis Australia Craig Tiley (right) did a great job managing to stage the tournament

Head of Tennis Australia Craig Tiley (right) did a great job managing to stage the tournament

Head of Tennis Australia Craig Tiley (right) did a great job managing to stage the tournament

I am actually optimistic for tennis and the world as we go forward from here. It is looking good for the tournaments coming up in Europe. There are still going to be problems but I am relatively confident we are all going to be in a much better place in two to three months.

The French are very creative so I am sure they are going to come up with a way to make the next Grand Slam in Paris successful.

My last few Major events have been spent in Munich, in the Eurosport studios. While none of us can be entirely sure, I am really hoping that we can get back on site by the time Roland Garros comes around.