MELBOURNE, Australia — The first point of the Australian Open men’s final on Sunday told the story of all that was to come.

With his opening serve, Novak Djokovic stretched Rafael Nadal wide, sending the Spaniard sprawling. Djokovic quickly had his longtime rival exactly where he wanted: off balance and unglued.

In a flash, as Nadal spun 360 degrees and scrambled to recover, Djokovic took a half-dozen confident steps forward. He lined up a backhand and then unleashed a buzzing winner that Nadal did not even try for.

Point won. Point made. Rafael Nadal: toast.

The match, held at Rod Laver Arena on a warm and slightly breezy evening, finished just 2 hours 4 minutes later, Djokovic winning in a full-blown knockout, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.

This was a win that tightened the 31-year-old Serb’s hold on the top spot in men’s tennis. It also elevated his name once again in the annals of tennis history. He now has a record seven Australian Open titles and has moved to sole possession of third place for major titles, with 15, breaking a tie with Pete Sampras.

The three powerhouse sets were as fine and dominating as Djokovic — or anyone — has ever played in a major tournament final.

“It ranks right at the top,” Djokovic said, assessing his performance at a news conference. “At this level, under these circumstances, it was truly a perfect match.”

He could not have seen this coming. Nobody could.

Djokovic versus Nadal, No. 1 vs. No. 2, was arguably the most anticipated match of the tournament. It was the first occasion in which these two tense rivals — who have now played 53 times on tour, with Djokovic winning 28 — had met in the finals of a Grand Slam event since 2014, when Nadal slipped by Djokovic in four sets at Roland Garros in Paris.

Given the scintillating way both had performed throughout the tournament, with Nadal winning every set he played in his first six matches and with Djokovic winning all but two, it seemed certain that they would duel once again deep into the Melbourne night.

Nothing worked.

Djokovic led early in every stanza and never looked back. There was no tension. The match was shorter by 23 minutes than Saturday’s stirring women’s final between Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova, which also unfolded in three sets but was blessed by tension at every turn.

“For me, one of the most important objectives for the match was to start off well and bring the intensity and make sure that he also feels my presence,” said Djokovic, who looked remarkably calm and centered, both during the match and afterward. “He always makes sure that the opponent across the net feels his presence. That is how he plays. That’s how he behaves. He brings so much energy, jumping around, sprinting.

“It was crucial for me to start off with an early break. Having a set under my belt just made me relax a bit more, not really worry too much. After that, it was smooth.”

Smooth. Perfect summary.

It was a rare lopsided Grand Slam final between men’s tennis greats, reminiscent of Nadal’s wipeout of Federer at the 2008 French Open and John McEnroe’s rout of Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in 1984.

But it should not be forgotten how far the two came to get to the finals, the hurdles overcome. There is Nadal with his injuries, which have piled up over the years, especially on hard courts. There is Djokovic with the way he struggled with his confidence and his health after winning the French Open in 2016. For two full tennis seasons, it felt as if he was lost in the wilderness, in matches including a fourth-round loss at Melbourne Park last year to the unseeded South Korean Hyeon Chung.