128 men started in the field. One by one, the field started to decrease and by the end of it all, Novak Djokovic was the last man standing, for a third consecutive year.
Let’s take a look at how the men’s tournament panned out, and how it led to Novak Djokovic lifting the Norman Brookes Memorial Cup for a fourth time.
Novak Djokovic (#1) started his title defence with a comfortable victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu, while fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic (#8) handed Lleyton Hewitt his first straight-sets first round defeat at the Australian Open since his debut in 1997.
Tomas Berdych (#5), Nicolas Almagro (#10) and David Ferrer (#4) also survived their first tests. Andy Murray (#3), Roger Federer (#2) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (#7) were among those who survived the first Tuesday of the competition, but Aleksandr Dolgopolov (#18) was an early casualty, falling to Gael Monfils whose 2012 season was wrecked by injury.
Bernard Tomic continued his impressive start to the 2013 season with a straight sets victory over Leonardo Mayer.
As he did at Wimbledon last year, Novak Djokovic sent Ryan Harrison packing in the second round. Tomas Berdych was also very impressive on the third day of competition.
Thursday saw Andy Murray shifted to Hisense Arena but it didn’t stop him winning his second round match. Roger Federer ousted Nikolay Davydenko in an unusually early round match (they are used to meeting late in big tournaments) and in the process set up a rematch of last year’s fourth round against Bernard Tomic, to be played in the third round this year.
In another repeat of a Wimbledon match from last year, Novak Djokovic dismissed Radek Stepanek (#31) in straight sets, while David Ferrer lived up to his #4 seeding and comprehensively defeated Marcos Baghdatis (#28), also in straight sets.
Janko Tipsarevic survived a five-set thriller, his second straight such victory since defeating Lleyton Hewitt in the first round. However Fernando Verdasco (#22) wasn’t so lucky, being upset in five sets by Kevin Anderson, who had defeated him at the Hopman Cup three weeks earlier.
Andy Murray struggled to beat his hitting partner, Ricardas Berankis, while Roger Federer easily beat Bernard Tomic for the second year in a row. Unfortunately, Marin Cilic (#12) and Juan Martin del Potro (#6) were early casualties, instead of meeting in what would have been an intriguing fourth round match, they were both upset by Andreas Seppi and Jeremy Chardy respectively.
In the calm before the storm, David Ferrer avenged his Olympics defeat to Kei Nishikori and never let him into this fourth round match. Tomas Berdych survived a dramatic third set tiebreak to defeat Fernando Verdasco’s third round conqueror, Kevin Anderson.
Janko Tipsarevic had to concede his quarter-final dream to Nicolas Almagro due to a heel injury. Then, Novak Djokovic started very slowly against Stanislas Wawrinka (#15), falling behind 1-6, 2-5 before anyone could blink.
It was already starting to become a bleak night for Serbian fans after Tipsarevic’s retirement and Ana Ivanovic’s defeat earlier in the evening. Djokovic would storm back to record a memorable five-hour, five-set victory and keep his Australian Open defence alive.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won The Battle of France, defeating Richard Gasquet (#9) in four sets, while Andy Murray and Roger Federer both dismissed the opposition with ease (over Gilles Simon (#16) and Milos Raonic (#13) respectively).
David Ferrer won The Battle of Spain, coming from two sets to love down to deny Nicolas Almagro his best ever performance at a Grand Slam tournament.
Novak Djokovic showed no signs of fatigue from his enduring fourth round match against Stanislas Wawrinka but still needed four sets to get rid of Tomas Berdych. The match too exactly half the time it took for him to beat Wawrinka. Andy Murray and Roger Federer ended French hopes for another year, fighting off Jeremy Chardy and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga respectively.
Nothing needs to be explained about Novak Djokovic’s dominant display against David Ferrer on the Thursday night.
However, Andy Murray needed exactly four hours and five sets to get rid of his Wimbledon nemesis Roger Federer, to set up the dream final between two men who are separated by age by just one week, the two men who have been playing second-fiddle to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the past six or so years.
For the most part, the final was so intense that there were no breaks of serve until 4-3 (Murray serving) in the third set. Djokovic finally got the breakthrough after Murray appeared to struggle with not just a foot injury but also a heckler in the crowd.
Once Djokovic got the breakthrough, Murray never recovered and the Djoker took the third set 6-3. He finished it off in the fourth set, winning 6-2 and thus sealing a hat-trick of Australian Open titles, something no man was able to achieve in the Open Era until last night.
There seems to be something about this place that makes Novak Djokovic so unbeatable. Since the surface changed from Rebound Ace to Plexicushion in 2008, the Serb has only lost two matches, though both of them were injury-related.
In 2009, he was forced to retire due to heat stress in that year’s quarter-final against Andy Roddick, denying us another Djokovic versus Federer semi-final while the Roddick versus Federer rivalry was renewed.
In 2010, Djokovic fell ill during the quarter-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the Frenchman took revenge for the 2008 final defeat.
Djokovic is champion again, now next year he has a chance to make further history. All that he needs to do now is win Roland Garros and he will have a Career Grand Slam.
We’ll be back to do it all again in 2014. Can Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka repeat as champions next year?