In Sunday's Australian Open final against Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic played almost as though it was a foregone conclusion that he would win. He dropped the first set and didn't panic or wilt. "Mentally lighter," as he put it, he calmly pressed on, imposing his will on both the opponent and the match and prevailed, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2.
"I needed to be the one who dictated play, and I'm glad I played my best." he said nonchalantly. "I knew that it's going to be physically very demanding, a lot of long rallies, so I needed to hang in there. I've done that."
Djokovic is like the straight-A student who does well in everything and is weak in no subject. (He is the best returner in tennis. His groundstrokes are unimpeachable. He moves with speed and grace. Precision? Check. Power? Check.) He operates with the self-assured knowledge that he will ace every test. It's just a question of how. Sometimes he'll be pushed -- as he was in fourth round, when he had to rally to beat Stan Wawrinka in what was the best match of the tournament. Sometimes he'll do it without being challenged, as was the case when he thrashed No. 4 David Ferrer in the semis. Sometimes, he'll simply do what's necessary, and answer all questions comprehensively, as was the case Sunday.