Novak Djokovic discovered this journey to Australia far easier, and much more profitable, than that of a yr in the past.
Unable to enter his greatest occasion in 2022 after being deported from the nation as a result of he was not vaccinated towards Covid-19, Djokovic achieved all he may have needed in his return: He resumed his profitable methods at Melbourne Park and made it again to the highest of tennis.
Only briefly challenged within the ultimate on Sunday night time, Djokovic was merely higher on the most vital moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) for a record-extending tenth Australian Open championship and record-tying twenty second Grand Slam title general. As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 within the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for extra weeks than another man.
“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic stated, carrying a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”
And a second later, he uttered an announcement that’s really vital, given all of the 35-year-old from Serbia has accomplished on a tennis court docket: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”
Djokovic stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to twenty-eight matches, the longest run there within the Open period, which dates to 1968. He provides trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — the place he additionally was absent final yr due to no coronavirus pictures — and two on the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for essentially the most by a person.
Only two girls — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are forward of him.
This was additionally the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.
“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas advised Djokovic.
Djokovic was taking part in his thirty third main ultimate, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece’s different one additionally resulted in a loss to Djokovic, on the 2021 French Open.
Superior all through on this cool night below a cloud-filled sky, Djokovic was particularly so within the two tiebreakers. He took a 4-1 lead within the first, then reeled off the final three factors. He led 5-0 within the closing tiebreaker and, when it completed, he pointed to his temple earlier than climbing into the stands, the place he pumped his fist and jumped together with his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, and different members of the entourage, then collapsed, crying.
When Djokovic returned to the enjoying floor, he sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel, and sobbed some extra.
Little doubt that is of no solace to Tsitsipas, however there is no such thing as a disgrace in failing to defeat Djokovic in Melbourne. Challenging his dominion on these blue onerous courts is each bit the monumental process that taking up Nadal on the pink clay at Roland Garros is.
Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was keen to interact within the type of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has constructed his superlative profession. How did that work out? Of factors lasting at the very least 5 strokes, Djokovic received 43, Tsitsipas 30.
Then once more, on these uncommon events that Tsitsipas did cost the online, he seemingly regretted the choice, as a result of Djokovic typically conjured up a passing shot that was too powerful to deal with.
The trophy for which they have been enjoying was displayed on a pedestal close to a nook of the court docket, and each males would get inside attain of it every time wandering over to towel off between factors at that finish. So shut, sure, however for Tsitsipas, by no means really shut sufficient.
It’s not as if he performed all that poorly, aside from a rash of early miscues that gave the impression to be extra a product of stress than something.
It’s that Djokovic was, put merely, too unyielding. Too correct together with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and versatile chasing pictures (aside from on one second-set level, when, operating to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).
Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some extra, till it is the opponent who’s one thing lower than excellent on one swing, both lacking or offering a gap to pounce.
That’s what occurred when Tsitsipas held his first break level — which was additionally a set level — whereas forward 5-4 within the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might the end result’s tilt change? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?
A 15-stroke level concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like an announcement. Two misses by Tsitsipas adopted: A backhand lengthy, a forehand large. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas truly did break within the third, Djokovic broke proper again.
There has been greater than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s thoughts over the previous two weeks.
There was the not-so-small matter of final yr’s authorized saga — he has alternately acknowledged the entire thing served as a type of motivation but additionally stated the opposite day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity concerning the type of reception he would get when allowed to go to Australia this time as a result of pandemic restrictions have been eased.
He heard a ton of loud assist, but additionally handled some persistent heckling whereas competing, together with applause after faults Sunday.
There was the sore left hamstring that has been closely bandaged for each match — till the ultimate, that’s, when solely a single piece of beige athletic tape was seen.
And then there was the extra sophisticated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a bunch of individuals with Russian flags — one with a picture of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The event banned spectators from bringing in flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they might trigger disruption due to the continued invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father stated it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian followers.
Still, Srdjan Djokovic didn’t attend his son’s semifinal or the ultimate.
No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so typically has, profitable 17 units in a row after ceding one within the second spherical final week.
“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas stated, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”
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