Australian Open: Novak Djokovic captures historic seventh crown in Melbourne with destruction of Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic moves one step closer to holding all four Grand Slams for the second time in his career (Image source: TPB/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic's grip on the men's game is tightening, his eyes transfixed on Roger Federer's 20 major title haul, after his annihilation of Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open - capturing an unprecedented seventh title in Melbourne by doing so.

The Spaniard approached Sunday's final having not dropped serve since his first round match, but he was comfortably second best against ravenous opposition. He has not beaten Djokovic on a hard court since 2013 and in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 dismantlement on Rod Laver Arena few would have begrudged Nadal if he asked for the Serb's autograph at the end of the match. 

The winner of 17 Grand Slam titles was quick to acknowledge the brilliance of his opponent: "It was an amazing level of tennis tonight. I played someone who played much better than me."

The future

The temptation now is to ponder just how many major titles Djokovic will hold before he calls time on his career. He now moves ahead of Pete Sampras' 14 Grand Slam successes and within two of Nadal's. Federer still sets the benchmark with an incredible 20, but it is hard to envisage where the Serb will encounter problems - aside from the clay courts of Roland Garros with Nadal present. 

Those sentiments were expressed when the 31-year-old captured his first French Open title in 2016 to complete the career Grand Slam, of course, before he suffered physical and mental setbacks that precipitated a two-year drought in major titles. 

However, he has experienced the hardship and came through the other side and it is remarkable still how swift his transition back into the sport's domineering force has been. As he noted post-match, it was at this juncture last season he decided surgery was required to mend his aching elbow. 

"I'm just trying to contemplate the journey in the last 12 months," said Djokovic. "I had the surgery exactly 12 months ago so to be standing in front of you today and to win this title and three out of four Slams is amazing. I'm speechless."

The world number one started his seventh Australian Open final just as he had left off against Lucas Pouille in the semifinals. There, Djokovic surrendered only four games in a dissection of the resurgent Frenchman, laying a marker with a 6-0 opening set.

It wasn't quite as disastrous for Nadal here but Serb was hitting with confidence, retaining great length on his groundstrokes and doing the seemingly impossible by making the Spaniard look ordinary this tournament.

Djokovic has won his last three Grand Slam finals in straight sets (Image source: Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Djokovic has won his last three Grand Slam finals in straight sets (Image source: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

One-way traffic 

He broke in the second game of the set, his supremacy on serve highlighted by the loss of just one point in his five service games - and even that seemed a token gesture in the set-clinching game. 

A Nadal resurgence was predicted, but the Spaniard looked perplexed. His forehand carried zip through these two weeks but it was reduced to paper by the Serb, who took the second set in 40 minutes. 

Djokovic had failed to offer a single break point to the 32-year-old until that point and when he broke for a 2-1 lead Nadal, the hallmark of perseverance and fighting spirit his entire career looked bereft of self-belief. He was bludgeoning the ball with the same intent as he was against Alex De Minaur, Frances Tiafoe, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, but the greatest defender of all time was toying with him. 

A break point finally arrived for Nadal in the sixth game but it was swatted away with disdain by Djokovic, almost as if the notion of a wobble with the finishing line in sight was an affront to his character. 

History was then sealed two service holds later. And on catching Federer's Grand Slam total? "Of course, it motivates me. How many seasons are to come? I don’t know. I’m aware that making history of the sport I truly love is something special."