The reasons for Djokovic’s dominance here are both physical and psychological. The final always takes place at night. Those night matches that the birds come for, along with legions of Serbs who scream the “Olé, olé, olé, olé,” chant when their favorite son most needs it, are often played in cooler temperatures than those that take place during the warm, dry days of the Australian summer. Heat has always tended to melt Djokovic. A cool evening, like the one on which he met Medvedev, is his favorite playing partner.
Also, players say the shift in the climate completely changes the conditions of the court. Balls stop popping off the ground, keeping so many of Djokovic’s hard, flat groundstrokes below his opponent’s knees and out of their strike zones. What looks like a simple backhand is anything but, especially when the player hitting the original shot has never lost the ultimate match here, and too often the opponent’s counter ends up wide, long or in the middle of the net.
They come nearly every year now, this new crop of challengers who so desperately want to begin their time in the sun, to win the championships that everyone in the game values most and beat the three players considered the best to ever play in the biggest moments. Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, others will surely follow. And each year, they fall short, making the task seem all that more impossible.
Djokovic, Federer and Nadal — the so-called Big Three of men’s tennis — have simply refused to give way to the next generation of players, who have been unable for years to topple them on the biggest stages. Not one of them has ever lost a final to a player currently younger than 30.
Thiem of Austria came close, outplaying Djokovic for long stretches in last year’s Australian Open final before Djokovic prevailed in five sets. That match appeared to hint at a shrinking gap between the veterans and the young players trying to nip at their heels.
But as Djokovic lifted the trophy once more in Melbourne on Sunday night, he made it clear that he had no intention of giving up ownership of the crown he claims as his own and the court he calls his second backyard anytime soon.