Djokovic’s triumph represented way over statistics might convey.
It represented a comeback for a champion who had been deported by Australian officials one 12 months earlier, and vilified by many within the nation, due to his refusal to adjust to the nation’s coronavirus vaccine mandates. That non-public alternative price him dearly final season, barring him as effectively from contesting the U.S. Open and the North American hard-court season that preceded it.
All that, in addition to the hamstring injury he aggravated mid-tournament that made him query whether or not he might proceed, was the subtext when Djokovic characterised it as one of the difficult competitions of his life in accepting the trophy after slipping on a brand new warm-up jacket with a “22” on the chest.
“Not taking part in final 12 months, coming again this 12 months …” Djokovic stated, pausing to thank everybody who made him feel welcome again in Australia. “That is most likely, I’d say — the largest victory in my life, contemplating the circumstances.”
In opposition to the fourth-ranked Tsitsipas, a challenger 11 years youthful, Djokovic left little question about who was the superior participant. And within the minds of these bent on rating perfection throughout generations, he additionally bolstered his career-long quest to be thought to be the best to play the sport.
Tsitsipas, 24, willingly bestowed the title in defeat whereas thanking Djokovic for setting the bar so excessive.
“You make me a greater participant when I’m on the court docket,” Tsitsipas stated. “I’ve had the privilege to play lots of excessive depth video games, however these are the matches I’ve been working my complete life for … I feel he’s the best that has ever held a tennis racket.”
Sunday’s males’s ultimate was a reprise of the 2021 French Open championship, through which Djokovic stormed again from a two-sets deficit to conquer Tsitsipas in a gut-spilling ordeal that lasted greater than 4 hours.
There was loads of motive to count on a comparable thriller Sunday in Melbourne.
Tsitsipas is stronger bodily and mentally than he was in contesting his first Grand Slam ultimate in June 2021. He arrived in Melbourne with an unbeaten document to start out the 2023 season, taking part in the perfect tennis of his profession.
The issue he confronted was that Djokovic might say the identical.
Tsitsipas’s strengths are his large serve and big forehand. In Djokovic’s case, each side of his sport is a energy. He boasts the perfect service return in tennis and his personal serve is a harmful weapon, too. He’s an unflagging defender, but ruthless on offense, as effectively. He can dictate from the baseline however ably cowl each patch of the court docket, from backcourt to internet and one sideline to the opposite.
At 35, Djokovic has conceded nothing to age. Assiduous together with his weight-reduction plan, yoga, coaching and restoration routine, Djokovic has cast his 6-2, 170-pound body right into a mannequin of steady enchancment.
It was merely an excessive amount of for Tsitsipas to counter, simply because it was for the six challengers Djokovic had routed to achieve Sunday’s ultimate. Djokovic conceded only one set within the course of, together with his longest match 3 hours 7 minutes.
Cheered by raucous Serbian supporters who packed Rod Laver Area, Djokovic didn’t want fairly that lengthy to dispatch a regularly misfiring Tsitsipas in 2 hours 56 minutes.
From the outset, Tsitsipas struggled together with his usually dependable first serve and forehand.
He was bidding to develop into the primary Greek to win a Grand Slam title and ascend to No. 1. However he was damaged early within the opening set, and Djokovic rapidly seized command.
With teaching now permitted, Tsitsipas’s father, Apostolos, who can also be his son’s coach, was a voluble courtside presence.
Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, selected to not attend for a second consecutive match after an issue erupted when he was photographed with Vladimir Putin supporters on Wednesday. His absence, Djokovic conceded afterward, posed one other problem to his psychological focus.
Tsitsipas settled in and put extra muscle into the rallies within the second set. However he flubbed a backhand volley with an opportunity to arrange a break level and take a 5-3 lead.
Two factors from leveling the match at one set every, Tsitsipas miss-hit a forehand. And miss-hit and misjudged forehands plagued him within the tiebreaker that handed Djokovic a two-sets-to-none lead.
The third set unfolded a lot the identical. Djokovic held the higher hand in most rallies, served effectively all through and performed his finest, as is his customized, on the must-have factors.
Tsitsipas’s 40 winners had been offset by 42 unforced errors — many coming at pivotal moments.
Djokovic completed with 36 winners and 22 unforced errors.
Tsitsipas was philosophical, if visibly upset, in his post-match information convention.
“I did the whole lot potential,” he stated. “Novak is a participant that pushes you to your limits. I don’t see this as a curse. I don’t see this as one thing, like, annoying.”
Moderately, Tsitsipas defined, he considered Djokovic’s excellence as benefiting the game and the rivals who wish to attain his degree.
“Getting our [butts] kicked is for positive an excellent lesson each single time,” Tsitsipas stated.
Djokovic on Monday will reclaim the No. 1 rating he has already held for a document 373 weeks however misplaced to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev final June.
He’ll enter the French Open in late Might knotted with Nadal, his biggest rival, for 22 Grand Slam titles. Nadal has made the crimson clay of Roland Garros his fiefdom, with 14 titles, in the identical approach Djokovic has claimed Australia’s exhausting courts as his area.
Nadal, 36, was final seen limping off Rod Laver Area with a hip damage suffered in a second-round loss to American Mackenzie McDonald. His recovery is projected to sideline him six to eight weeks.
“After all I’m motivated to win as many Slams as potential,” Djokovic stated throughout his post-match information convention. “At this stage of my profession, these trophies are the largest motivational issue of why I nonetheless compete. … I by no means actually preferred evaluating myself to others, however in fact it’s a privilege to be a part of the dialogue as one of many biggest gamers of all time.”