Dominant Djokovic breezes past nervy Nadal to claim record 7th Australian Open title (PHOTOS)
World number one Djokovic needed just three sets (6-3, 6-2, 6-3) to best second seed Nadal in a blistering performance in which he rarely yielded any semblance of control to the Spaniard in a match which lasted just two hours and four minutes.
Nadal's performance was punctuated by 28 unforced errors through three sets but even if Nadal hadn't underperformed, it would have taken a momentous performance to dethrone the Serb, who has now claimed seven Australian Open titles since 2008.
Djokovic started the first set strongly, dictating with his serve and power shots and forcing Nadal to stay towards the back of the court. The Spaniard's serve, so often one of his most potent weapons, was neutered by Djokovic throughout as he struggled to find his rhythm amid a series of impeccable returns from the Serb.
Djokovic, who dropped just one service point in the first set, reasserted his dominance in the second. Nadal, perhaps sensing a whitewash, upped his aggression early, even coaxing an unforced error or two from the unflappable Djokovic.
It wouldn't last. Djokovic pulled away as the second set developed, putting the finishing touches on it with three successive aces to claim it 6-2. Nadal, it seemed, had little response to the intensity coming from the man opposite him inside the Rod Laver Arena.
The writing was very much on the wall in the third set, as Djokovic and the crowd sensed the record seventh Australian Open title was near when a forehand winner down the line set up two championship points
Djokovic took the second of those, finishing the match with typical assuredness to break Nadal's serve as the Spaniard misfired with a backhand return, etching his name in the tennis history books in the process.
He moves clear of six-time winners Roy Emerson and Roger Federer to stand alone as the most successful men's player in Australian Open history.
Upon the win, Djokovic fell to his knees and slapped the court in celebration of his third Grand Slam win of the season and his 15th overall as he moves past Pete Sampras on the all-time list. Remarkably, he extends his record of winning every tournament in which he has reached the semi-final stage.
Djokovic has now defeated Nadal in 13 of their last 16 matches and boasts a career record 28-25 against the 17-time Grand Slam winner.
Speaking after collecting the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, Djokovic immediately paid tribute to his rival whose recent seasons have been punctuated by injury.
"You came back from an injury that took you out from the tour, you were unfortunate to go through major injuries but you’re showing to me the definition of the fighting spirit and resilience, so thank you very much for that," he said of his opponent.
"I can’t wait to come back next year. I’m very grateful for this experience."
For his part, Nadal congratulated the victor and said that he is proud of his performance regardless of the loss.
"Even if tonight wasn’t my best day, of course I had a player who played much better than me tonight. I have been going through tough moments during the last year," he said.
"I'm going to keep fighting hard, to keep working hard. I hope to see you next year."
It was a fitting climax to two weeks' of tennis. Djokovic maintains his reputation as the game's outstanding player and Nadal, even in defeat, leaves the court with his head held high after, refusing to yield to the foot injury which had threatened to derail his career.