MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Area stands to have fun his tenth Australian Open championship and record-tying twenty second Grand Slam title Sunday and, after leaping and pumping his fists together with his workforce, he collapsed onto his again, crying.
When he returned to the taking part in floor, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some extra.
This trip to Australia was way more profitable than that of a yr in the past, when he was deported from the nation as a result of he was not vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19. And Djokovic achieved all he might have probably wished in his return: He resumed his successful methods at Melbourne Park and made it again to the highest of tennis, declaring: “This in all probability is the, I’d say, greatest victory of my life.”
Solely briefly challenged within the last, Djokovic was merely higher on the most important moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). 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 every other man.
“I need to say this has been probably the most difficult tournaments I’ve ever performed in my life, contemplating the circumstances. Not taking part in final yr; coming again this yr,” Djokovic mentioned, sporting a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I need to thank all of the people who made me really feel welcome, made me really feel comfy, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”
The 35-year-old from Serbia 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 photographs — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for probably the most by a person.
Solely two ladies — Margaret Courtroom, 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 want to thanks for pushing our sport up to now,” Tsitsipas instructed Djokovic.
Djokovic was taking part in his thirty third main last, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece additionally misplaced the opposite, on the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.
On a cool night below a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of each males prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior all through, 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 screaming, a prelude to all the tears.
“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” mentioned Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s an amazing achievement. It was a extremely robust three weeks for him. He managed to beat all the things.”
Maybe surprisingly, Tsitsipas was keen to have interaction within the sort 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 gained 43, Tsitsipas 30.
Then once more, on these uncommon events that Tsitsipas did cost the online, Djokovic usually conjured up a passing shot that was too robust to deal with.
It’s not as if Tsitsipas performed all that poorly, aside from a rash of early miscues that gave the impression to be extra a product of rigidity than something.
It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too correct together with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and versatile chasing photographs (aside from on one second-set level, when, operating to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).
“I did all the things attainable,” mentioned Tsitsipas, who additionally would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, changing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg damage.
Maybe. But Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some extra, till it’s 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. May this be a fulcrum? May Djokovic relent? May Tsitsipas surge?
A 15-stroke level concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a press release. Two misses by Tsitsipas adopted: A backhand lengthy, a forehand large. These felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas truly did break within the third, Djokovic broke proper again.
There was 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 in addition mentioned the opposite day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity in regards to the kind of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia as a result of pandemic restrictions have been eased.
He heard a ton of loud help, but in addition 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.
After which there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a gaggle of individuals with Russian flags — one with a picture of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The match banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they might trigger disruption due to the continued invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father mentioned it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian followers.
Nonetheless, Srdjan Djokovic didn’t attend his son’s semifinal or the ultimate.
Regardless of any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so usually has.
“He’s the best,” Tsitsipas mentioned, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”
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