Novak Djokovic entered the Australian Open final on Sunday evening in Melbourne a whopping 9-0 in such matches in his career. It did not take long in his match against Stefanos Tsitsipas to realize he was well on his way to extending the perfect record to 10-0. The tenth title for Djokovic at this event extends his stunning record in Melbourne. No other man has won more than six titles at the event (Roger Federer and Roy Emerson each have six).
Djokovic’s opponent in the final, Stefanos Tsitsipas, surely knew the herculean task ahead of him. After all, Tsitsipas won the first two sets against Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final, only for the Serb to roar back and claim the trophy. And that was on the clay in Paris, a court much less comfortable (relatively speaking) for Djokovic than Rod Laver Arena.
Novak Djokovic def. Stefanos Tsitsipas 63 76(4) 76(5)
Djokovic entered the tournament with potential concerns about a hamstring injury, and he began the final match with tape on his left thigh. If it bothered him at all in the match, though, it didn’t show. The Serb came out flying, setting a standard that Tsitsipas just couldn’t match.
Djokovic was untouchable on serve in the first set, dropping just five points on his own delivery throughout the set. He put pressure on Tsitsipas in the Greek’s opening service game, opening up two break point chances. Tsitsipas held that game, but couldn’t do the same in his next service game, conceding the break with a double fault. That ended up being the difference in the set, which Djokovic won 6-3.
Tsitsipas raised his level in the second set, but that was only enough to keep things more competitive, not actually edge ahead of Djokovic. The Greek had a chance in Djokovic’s second game of the set, but couldn’t do more with a relatively weak Djokovic overhead, spraying an error that could have created a break point chance. He dug deep to continue holding, finally putting pressure on Djokovic’s service games. As Tsitsipas kept up his level, the crowd became more vocal in support of the Greek, visibly frustrating Djokovic. The Serbian saved a set point and forced a tiebreak, where he promptly raced out to a 4-1 lead. Then nerves showed up, highlighted by an ugly double fault, but Djokovic took three straight points from 4-4 to take a two-set lead, holding the match firmly in control.
Djokovic left the court after the second set to change, and came out serving extremely flat to open the third. He practically broke himself, but then broke the Greek right back to level things at 1-1. The Serbian never looked back from there. Tsitsipas did continue to hold, but he never challenged the Djokovic serve again. That meant, for the second straight set, we were on for a tiebreak.
The Serb came out roaring, smacking a return winner on Tsitsipas’ first serve point. He followed up with a second minibreak on a Tsitsipas forehand error, and the finish line was in sight. No nerves for Djokovic this time, though some good Tsitsipas rallies kept it entertaining, and he pushed through for a 7-5 tiebreak victory.
With a 63 76(4) 76(5) victory, Novak Djokovic indeed captures his record tenth Australian Open title.
The title ties Novak Djokovic with Rafael Nadal as the men’s Grand Slam leader, with 22 Major trophies apiece. Assuming both men are healthy, the French Open in June will likely be a battle for this record.
Djokovic also will reclaim the World #1 ranking, a title he probably rightfully shouldn’t have lost last year anyway. The Serbian wasn’t allowed to enter the United States or Canada due to being unvaccinated, and was famously deported from Australia, meaning he missed two Grand Slams and four Masters 1000 events last year. Add in the fact that Wimbledon––which Djokovic won–was stripped of its ranking points due to the decision to ban Russian and Belorussian players, and it’s a wonder Djokovic was ranked as high as he was to end last season anyway.
Tsitsipas will likely be disappointed after the loss, but he should be encouraged by the tournament. After a somewhat lackluster 2022 (relative to his previous years), it’s an excellent start to the season. In fact, because the United States still doesn’t allow unvaccinated visitors, Tsitsipas will have a real chance to claim the World #1 ranking from Djokovic if he has good runs in the upcoming Indian Wells and Miami Masters events in March and April.
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