Epic” is part of the list of cliches applied to everything and nothing in the post-Twitter world. From a fancy kill in a videogame, a particularly satisfying meal to the umpteenth entry in a superhero film franchise. In tennis, it translates to five-setters, never mind it being a two-giants-trading-aces-for-hours snoozefest. No surprises then that keying in “Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal Australian Open Epic” in a search engine will take you back seven years, where the android outran the matador over six hours. When you’re talking of epic tennis matches, even excellent four sets don’t cut it. Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 masterpiece on Sunday then hardly stands a chance.
The Australian Open final was the most flawless Djokovic has ever played, and he once defeated a player 6-0, 6-0, 6-2. He struck the ball early, hard and deep, to throw Nadal off. These are titans who had clashed with each other 52 times over 13 years. At this stage in the game, for one to devise a plan to effectively shut down the other, takes some derring-do. “Things started so quick,” Nadal snapped his fingers to explain his heaviest final defeat.
Oxford defines “epic” as “a long poem… narrating the deeds and adventures of legendary figures…” Two hours and four minutes is not long for what was to be a hard-fought battle between world’s top two who had razed through journeymen and wunderkinds. But their journeys to the Sunday final stretch further back. Nadal is in the middle of yet another comeback in an illustrious but injury-riddled career. Djokovic struggled with confidence issues and poor health. The Australian Open thus was the piece de resistance. These aren’t the tireless 25-year-olds circa 2006. Their tennis is more cerebral, and on the red clay of France, Nadal can inflict a similar scoreline. “I might have figured him out for the match. But I didn’t figure him out for life,” assessed Djokovic. The next generation’s romantics would have to wait. The modern-day Homer and Virgil aren’t done penning their final stanzas. Now, that’s epic.