Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Serbian Novak Djokovic defeated Austrian Dominic Thiem in five sets to successfully defend his Australian Open men's singles title Sunday in Melbourne -- his record-extending eighth crown Down Under.
Djokovic, trailing 2-1 after three sets, went on to win 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in one minute under four hours for his 17th Grand Slam championship crown -- only behind Roger Federer with 20 and Rafael Nadal with 19. He also returned to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, surpassing Nadal.
"I would like to start by saying congratulations to Dominic for an amazing tournament," Djokovic, 32, said during the on-court ceremony at the Rod Laver Arena. "It wasn't meant to be tonight. Tough luck and it was a tough match, but you were very close to winning it and you definitely have a lot more time in your career and I'm sure that you will get one of the Grand Slam trophies. More than one."
Djokovic is 16-0 in semifinals and finals in the Australian Open over four years.
Thiem, 26, also was runner-up to Nadal in the French Open at Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019. The only other men in the Open Era to lose their first three major final appearances are Goran Ivanisevic, Andre Agassi, Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl. Murray and Lendl lost first four.
"I would like to start by saying a huge congrats to Novak, an amazing achievement," Thiem said in the on-court ceremony. "It's unreal what you and your team are doing, throughout all these years. You, and also two other guys [Nadal and Federer] have brought men's tennis to a complete new level and I'm really proud and happy to compete and be a part of these times. I fell short today, but I hope to get revenge soon.
"I have experienced such huge support throughout these two weeks... It is one of the best events in all sports and I am looking forward to returning next year."
Thiem had beaten Djokovic in four of their past five ATP meetings goming into the final.
Since the start of last year, Thiem is 2-2 against Djokovic and Nadal, and 3-0 vs. Federer. Thiem defeated Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Thiem won six straight games from 4-4 in the second set -- when Djokovic received a time violation -- and took a 4-0 lead in the third set.
Thiem was ahead 5-1 in the third set. He had three missed set opportunities then Djokovic hit a forehand into the net.
After a 3-3 tie in the fourth set, Djokovic rallied to win 6-3 in the 42-minute set.
In the final set, Djokovic was down 0-1 but won five games in a row en route to the victory.