Djokovic in sublime form

With nothing to brag about. the Black Caps’ first three ODI losses to the might of India, my focus in this column centres on the overwhelming dominance of tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Naomi Nasaka in the Australian Open at Melbourne.

With wiry Serb Djokovic and Spanish leftie Nadal annihilating all-comers, one of the great men’s finals was anticipated. Instead, Djokovic bolted home 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in 2 hours 4 minutes leaving the crowd and his opponent  stunned by his peerless performances.

Moving past Roy Emerson and Roger Federer to become the first man to win seven Australian Opens, he has yet to lose a final in the Melbourne classic. It is impossible to recall anyone being so superior against a player of Nadal’s class and courage.

This from a man who, a year ago, had surgery done to a painful elbow that threatened to wreck his career whereas Nadal had an ankle operation in November.

Djokovic’s superiority was such that he struck 34 winners and made just nine unforced errors to ease past Pete Sampras for his 15th major.

On that performance, some experts believe he may even surpass Swiss maestro Federer’s 20. But his immediate focus will be on winning the French crown Nadal has won an astounding 11 times.

Should he succeed, he will complete a Novak slam having won Wimbledon, the United States and now the Australian Opens in his last three attempts. But beating the King of Clay on his favourite surface is a huge mountain to climb.

Meanwhile Naomi Osaka’s elevation to women’s No 1 following her win in the United States Open with another in Australia, suggests a rising 21-year-old star who could challenge the ageing Serena Williams’ dominance.

She did it when claiming the US Open final at Flushing Meadow when a spiteful Williams spat the dummy, with further spats against the umpire that took some of the glory away from her conqueror.

Nothing, however, could detract from Osaka’s Australian 7-6, 5-7, 6-1 win against popular Czech Petra Kvitova in the women’s singles final.

Having beaten Serena Williams 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 in a thrilling quarter-final, Kvitova looked likely to add to her previous two majors before surviving a knife attack in her apartment and major surgery to her hand and fingers.

However Osaka, who moved to America from Japan when she was three, was also in outstanding form.

Blessed with some of Williams’ power, she moves around the court faster and isn’t afraid to go for her shots. That proved the difference in her decisive 6-1 third set triumph against Kvitova.

Meanwhile while Colin Munro’s berth in the Black Caps ODI team is under threat after he and opening partner Martin Guptill’s struggle for runs, they are by no means the only ones unable to cope with the Indian bowlers’ seam and spin.

The only ones to have offered resistance after the first three games were Ross Taylor (who was unlucky to not score a century in the third), captain Kane Williamson and Tom Latham.
Munro has been accused of being too gung ho, a criticism that was often levelled at his mentor, Brendon McCullum, though it was a method which reaped rich dividends when he struck gold last summer.

Meanwhile Doug Bracewell has justified his recall with some good bowling and lusty hitting.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author