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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, January 29, 2023


Novak Djokovic dismantled Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6, 7-6, capturing his 10th Australian Open crown, 22nd Grand Slam title and regaining the world No. 1 ranking.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

The dream dangled in sight.

Novak Djokovic remain riveted on the ball to realize it.

More: Twitter Electric over Djokovic's 22nd Grand Slam

Completing inspired Melbourne comeback with historic coronation, Djokovic dismantled Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) to capture his record-extending 10th Australian Open title and claim his 22nd career Grand Slam championship matching rival Rafael Nadal's men's major mark.

The fourth-seeded Serbian reclaimed his throne as Australian Open king and regained the world No. 1 ranking in the process surpassing US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz, who missed Melbourne rehabbing a leg injury.

Overcoming a strained hamstring and the pressure of playing for history, Djokovic took history on the rise and showed the humanity of the moment afterward. Collapsing into a group hug with his mother, brother and members of his box an emotionally exhausted Djokovic sobbed while soaking it in with loved ones.

"Just a huge pride and satisfaction that I feel at the moment," Djokovic told the media in Melbourne. "Of course, when I went into my box, I just think emotionally collapsed there and teared up with especially my mother and my brother, when I gave them a hug, because up to that moment I was not allowing myself to, I guess, be distracted with things off the court or whatever was happening in dealing with an injury, things happening off the court, as well, that could easily have been a big disturbance to my focus, to my game...

"Yeah, was a huge relief and release of the emotions in the end. Yeah, just difficult to find any additional words really. It's been a long journey, but very special one."

As fans chanted his nickname "Nole! Nole!" the Belgrade-born baseliner dedicated this 10th AO championships to the dreamers everywhere.

"Dare to dream big because anything is possible," Djokovic told the packed Rod Laver Arena crowd. "Don't let anyone take away the dream, doesn't matter where you are coming from.

"I actually think the more disadvantaged childhoold you have, the more difficult it is, the more challenges you have, the stronger you become. So Stefanos and I are proof of that."

The game's premier returner proved convincing closer winning 22 of the last 23 points played on his serve, including stamping four straight love holds to seal a two hour, 56-minute triumph.

Leave it to Djokovic to craft a triple crown—22 Slam titles, 10 AO championships and world No. 1 ranking—in the process of a magic Melbourne comeback that saw him add to mind-blowing numbers.

It capped a trying and tearful triumph Djokovic called "the greatest victory of my life considering the circumstances."

"I have 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 said. "I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome to be in Melbourne to be in Australia there's a reason why I have played my best tennis throughout my career in Australia and on this court in front of legendary Rod Laver, thank you so much for being present tonight sir...

"This is probably I would say the greatest victory of my life considering the circumstances."

Firing a final forehand to convert this third championship point, Djokovic paused for a moment, turned to his box and pointed an index finger to his head, pounded his palm off his heart then pointed below the belt to cojones signifying the three forces he used in unison for a legacy victory.

An exhausted and elated Djokovic climbed into his box and sobbed in the arms of his mother, brother and coach Goran Ivanisevic unloading the extreme emotional pressure he felt in heartfelt group hug.

An exacting and emotional Djokovic regained the world No. 1 ranking and reinforced his reputation as Greatest Of All Time—in the eyes of many opponents and observers, including Tsitsipas.

The man who built a two-set lead against Djokovic in the 2021 Roland Garros final only to fall in five sets, failed to convert a set point today in suffering his 10th straight loss to the champion. Ultimately, Tsitsipas hopes suffering shellackings will strengthen him when his next Grand Slam shot arrives.

"Novak is a player that pushes you to your limits," Tsitsipas said. "I don't see this as a curse. I don't see this as something, like, annoying. This is very good for the sport, to have competitors like him, to have champions like him.

"He's very important for us that want to get to his point one day. Getting our asses kicked is for sure a very good lesson every single time.

"He has made me a much better player. He has made my levels of concentration higher and higher every single time I get to play him. You have to be really involved and you have to be dedicated to the game when you play against him."

Denied his shot to become the first Greek Grand Slam champion, Tsitsipas praised Djokovic as GOAT after bowing to the Serbian in a second Slam final.

"I admire what you have done for our sport; I think you have made me a better player on the court so thank you," Tsitsipas told Djokovic. "He's one of the greatest in our sport and I think he's the greatest that's ever held a tennis racquet.

"I'd like to thank you for pushing our sport so far. A player like you pushes every single player, ever single individual that's involved in the sport to the max."

Bounced out of Australia last January over his unvaccinated status, Djokovic return as the ultimate antidote to all opponents.

A year after suffering demoralizing deportation, Djokovic crafted comeback coronation scoring his record-extending 28th consecutive AO triumph and 41st straight victory on Australian soil. Djokovic hasn't lost a match down under since Hyeon Chung swept him in the 2018 AO round of 16.

At this rate, it may be another five years before anyone beats the world No. 1 in Australia again.

Tennis Express

Outclassing all comers in Australia, Djokovic improved his 2023 record to 12-0 beating Tsitsipas for the 11th time in 13 meetings.

It is Djokovic's 93rd career championship, giving him sole ownership of fourth place on the ATP's all-time championship list behind only Jimmy Connors (109 titles), Roger Federer (103) and Ivan Lendl (94) and putting him one ahead of Nadal.

Since the 2018 Roland Garros, Djokovic and Nadal have combined to capture 16 of the last 19 Grand Slam championships and now stand shoulder-to-shoulder as Grand Slam kings. Thirteen of Djokovic's 22 major titles have come on hard court, equaling Serena Williams' all-time record. 

Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst John McEnroe calls him "the best mover on a hard court I've ever seen in my life" and Djokovic often operated closer to the baseline beating Tsitsipas to the ball and beating at critical stages.

Facing an opponent 11 years his junior, Djokovic was the more complete player who played with more precision scoring his 17th straight Melbourne Park win against a Top 5 opponent to raise his AO record to an astounding 89-8.

The world No. 1 ranking was on the line for the second straight Grand Slam final. Djokovic came out intent on making his opponent come out second-best in rallies. 

Attacking the Greek's stronger forehand wing from the start, Djokovic rattled the third seed earning break point and sending a statement at the start. 

A skittish Tsitsipas double-faulted deep handing the former No. 1 the break and a 3-1 lead. When Djokovic confirmed the break for 4-1, fans waving Serbian flags were chanting "Nole! Nole!" in unison.

Essentially, Djokovic was tactically telling Tsitsipas: I will break your best shot down and then how will you hurt me?

Tsitsipas settled in on serve, sliding his sixth ace to hold for 3-5.

Serving for the set, Djokovic whipped the wide serve to displace the Greek and set up first strikes. Djokovic won 17 of 18 first-serve points powering through a confident opening set in just 36 minutes.

The state of Djokovic's cranky hamstring was a hot topic throughout the tournament. Wearing a bit of flesh-colored taping on his upper left leg that was barely visible beneath his blue shorts, Djokovic was quick off the mark and moving fluidly laterally.

The 11-year age gap between the 35-year-old Serbian superstar and the 24-year-old Greek was the widest age difference in an AO men's final in Open Era history. Tsitsipas knew he had to play some physical rallies to test Djokovic. Hitting with more confidence, Tsitsipas slid a forehand down the line wrapping a deuce hold for 3-2.

A challenge for Tsitsipas is timing the return. Because of his expansive backswings off both wings and the fact his backhand chip return is still a work in progress, the Greek requires more time to generate returns than Djokovic, who is skilled at taking the ball on the rise and abbreviating his swing as required. A bigger challenge for Tsitsipas was Djokovic was serving with such precision the Greek couldn't get a sniff of his serve.

Tsitsipas needed a spark and got it in the seventh game. Navigating a tense deuce hold that saw Djokovic crash to the court chasing a backhand behind the baseline then bark at his box in frustration, Tsitsipas was waving his arms exhorting fans after holding for 4-3.

The Wimbledon winner was tested at 15-30 in the eighth game. Tsitsipas pushed a backhand approach long then netted a backhand drop volley that would have given him break point. Instead, Djokovic dodged the dilemma evening after eight games.

Staring down a set point in the 10th game, Djokovic stood tall. Bossing the Greek around the court, Djokovic drilled a clean forehand winner down the line capping a 15-shot rally to deny set point. Tsitsipas pushed the champion to the breaking point but played a bit too tentatively on set point as Djokovic held strong for 5-All.

An increasingly animated Djokovic was continuing to vent his frustration at his player box as Tsitsipas thumped his 10th ace down the T locking down his second love hold of the final for 6-5.

On set point Tsitsipas needed to play bigger and bolder, but instead tried to play safe and sound.

In a tense tiebreaker, both men showed nerves as the returner scored four mini breaks in a row.

Down 1-4, Tsitsipas exploited a Djokovic double fault and got back to 4-All. From there, Djokovic locked down and a sloppy Tsitsipas unraveled scattering a couple of deep errors. Djokovic dotted the wide serve surviving an edgy breaker in snatching a two-set lead.

Surprisingly, Djokovic opted to leave the court for a clothing change after seizing a two-set lead.

When he returned, the rhythm did not. Djokovic scattered a backhand wide as Tsitsipas opened the third set with his first break after almost two hours.

It was a short-lived lead for Tsitsipas. The Greek missed the mark on an open court forehand down the line and Djokovic made him pay punishing a backhand down the line and prompting a running error to break back.

A dialed in Djokovic rolled through 18 straight service points stamping four consecutive love holds to take a 6-5 lead. Tsitsipas slid an ace to force the third-set tiebreaker.

Reading the oncoming serve, Djokovic rifled a forehand return winner down the line for a 2-0 tiebreak lead. Three Tsitsipas errors helped the fourth seed stretch the lead to 5-0.

Working Tsitsipas side-to-side, Djokovic cracked a forehand down the line for three championship points at 6-3.

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On his third championship point, Djokovic drilled his final forehand and set off elation.

The son of a skier continues to treat Melbourne Park as a mountain range scaling major peaks.

Combining contortionist flexibility with speed skater's burst around the blue court, the Serbian superstar is the fifth player to win 22 Grand Slam singles titles and now sets his sights on surpassing 22-time major winners Nadal and Steffi Graf, match Serena Williams' 23 Grand Slam titles and continue his quest to surpass Margaret Court's all-time major mark of 24 Grand Slam titles.

Something tells us Djokovic has more major magic in him—a belief the 10-time champion shares.

"I never really liked comparing myself to others, but of course it's a privilege to be part of the discussion as one of the greatest players of all time," Djokovic said. "If people see me this way, of course it's very flattering because I know that I give as much effort and energy into trying to win slams as anybody else.

"I still have lots of motivation. Let's see how far it takes me. I really don't want to stop here. I don't have intention to stop here. I feel great about my tennis. I know that when I'm feeling good physically, mentally present, I have a chance to win any slam against anybody."

If Djokovic can stay healthy and hungry, he may well wind up winning more Grand Slams than everybody.


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