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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, October 9, 2022

 
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Novak Djokovic did not face a break point outclassing Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 for his ninth straight win and 90th career title at the Astana Open.

Photo credit: Getty

Another Novak Djokovic drive buzzed by leaving Stefanos Tsitsipas lunging at air.

Djokovic conjured a stinging serve and crackling drives making the third-seeded Greek disappear today.

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A commanding Djokovic dismissed Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 in a brilliant Astana Open final performance to extend his winning streak to nine matches.

It is Djokovic's 90th career championship. Djokovic collected his fourth title of 2022, including his third consecutive title after winning his seventh Wimbledon and the Tel Aviv title last Sunday.




Ninety career titles is beyond most players' wildest dreams—but since seeing his tennis hero Pete Sampras raise the Wimbledon trophy as a child, Djokovic has been committed to attaining awesome aspirations.

"I dare to dream actually. I always hope that I am going to have a great career," Djokovic said afterward. "Obviously, I didn't know the amount of finals that I'm going to play and the amount of tournaments I'm going to win.

"My intention was always to reach the highest heights in our sport. I'm just very grateful and blessed to play this well at this stage of my life. You know, 35 is not the same as 25, but I think the experience probably in this kind of big matches helps to approach mentally in the right way this kind of matches."




It was the 10th all Top 10 final of the year and Djokovic outclassed Tsitsipas for much of the match.

A combination of Djokovic's invincibility on serve and Tsitsipas' inability to return were essential elements to the 35-year-old Serbian capturing his fourth title of the season, while the Greek fell to 0-9 lifetime in ATP 500 finals.

Rocking in rhythm on serve from the opening ball, Djokovic served 79 percent, permitted just seven points on serve, including winning 8 of 10 second-serve points, did not face a break point and held at love in six of 10 serve games in a dominant 75-minute triumph.

Don't let the benevolent smile and philanthropic habit of gifting his racquets to fans fool you—at heart Djokovic is a demolition man tearing up top opponents.

Since bowing to Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid semifinals last May, Djokovic has gone on a 26-2 tear with his lone losses coming to Rafa Nadal in the Roland Garros quarterfinals and to Felix Auger-Aliassime at Laver Cup last month.   

The unvaccinated Djokovic was banned from entering North America for the US Open Series and US Open, but that three-month break has only made Djokovic more determined. The seventh-ranked Serbian has won 10 matches in a row against higher-ranked opponents.

"I couldn't ask for a better restart to the season," Djokovic said. "More than three months since the Wimbledon final. Basically, since Madrid tournament losing only to Rafa on the tour at Roland Garros everything else was a win. I'm super pumped and motivated to end the season as well as I have this past couple of weeks."

This match was a rematch of the Rome final, which Djokovic won 6-0, 7-6(5). In fact, since Tsitsipas took a 2-0 lead over Djokovic in the 2021 Roland Garros final, the Serbian has won seven straight sets against the Greek to take an 8-2 lead in their head-to-head series. Tsitsipas' inability to crack the code on the Djokovic serve and the former world No. 1's skill breaking down the Greek's one-handed backhand are two big reasons for the disparity.

Djokovic played cleaner combinations throughout committing just seven errors, while Tsitsipas scattered 25 unforced errors and found his favored forehand unruly in the latter stages.

 


The former world No. 1 made his move in the eighth game. Djokovic dabbed a drop shot winner to open the game then exploited a couple of Tsitsipas errors for double break point.

Playing a deep return off a second serve, Djokovic drained another forehand error earning the first break of the day for 5-3 as a frustrated Tsitsipas stewed behind the baseline.

The Serbian superstar often opened points with a sharp crosscourt forehand then reversed the rally back to the Greek's weaker backhand wing.


Tennis Express

  A successful serve-and-volley helped Djokovic gain triple set point. Djokovic slammed his first ace out wide to seal the set in style. The Djokovic serve was a keystroke: He served 78 percent and won 20 of 23 points played on his serve. Djokovic held at love in three of his first five service games.

Tsitsipas needed to sharpen his forehand and did so denying break point in the third game. The Greek tried deploying the drop shot, but Djokovic was all over that play and flicked a forehand winner down the line for a second break point. Tsitsipas saved it with a forehand swing volley calming the threat to hold for 2-1.




Unrelenting baseline pressure from Djokovic provoked another forehand error from Tsitsipas, who netted a volley on a serve-and-volley effort to fall into a triple break point hole. A meek drop shot attempt expired into the middle of the net as Djokovic broke at 15 for a 3-2 second-set lead after 54 minutes.

Moving fluidly, Djokovic shrunk space for Tsitsipas to pursue spinning a backhand down the line for game points. Djokovic rattled out a framed backhand error confirming the break at 15 for 4-2.

The third-seeded Greek could not make any inroads into Djokovic's service games. Serving with relaxed focus, Djokovic cruised through his sixth shutout hold of the final for a 5-3 lead.

When Tsitsipas put a backhand into net, Djokovic had a pair of championship points.




The Wimbledon winner netted a forehand on the first and Tsitsipas caught a fortuitous roll when his return crashed into the tape and rolled over saving the second championship point.

Pasting the baseline with a backhand down the line, Djokovic earned a third championship point. One last Tsitsipas error ended it. Djokovic needed only 75 minutes to hit a milestone.

It is Djokovic's first ATP 500-level title since he beat Tsitsipas to win the 2020 Dubai and secures the Serbian's spot next month's season-ending ATP Finals in Turin.


 

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