Novak Djokovic is back on top in more ways than one. Sunday night in Melbourne, Djokovic won his record-extending 10th Australian Open title topping Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5).
The title also ties Djokovic with Rafael Nadal at 22 atop the all-time men’s Grand Slam leaderboard. It also returns him to the No. 1 ranking for the first-time since last summer. After being deported from his favorite event a year ago, this one was extra sweet.
“This is one of the most challenging tournaments that I have ever played in my life,” said Djokovic. “Not playing last year, coming back this year. I want to thank all the people who made me feel welcome. There is a reason why I have played my best tennis on this court, in front of legendary Rod Laver.
“It is a long journey. All my team and family knows what we have been through in the past four or five weeks and this is probably the biggest victory of my life.”
Djokovic’s serve was the key in the match. The Serb was broken just once and that came at the start of the third. Djokovic would immediately break back and then go on a run of 20 straight points on serve, finish winning 22 of his last 23 on serve. He won 82% of his first serves while Tsitsipas just 70%.
Tsitsipas struggled to find the range early especially off the forehand and in just 36 minutes Djokovic had already jumped out to a set lead.
The Greek began finding rhythm on his serve and while the forehand still wasn’t up to the task, his backhand was. Still, Tsitsipas couldn’t puncture holes in the Djokovic service until his very first break point of the toward the end of the second set.
Tsitsipas badly fell behind in both breakers 4-1 in the second and 5-0 in the third. And he couldn’t recover. 27 total errors to just 11 winners off the forehand side didn’t help. The 24-year-old falls to 0-2 in Slam finals with both losses to Djokovic.
“I’m just happy that I’m in another Grand Slam final. Of course, I was dreaming about the trophy, lifting that trophy. I even dreamt it last night in my sleep. The desire is really there. I really, really want it badly,” said Tsitsipas. “But just dreaming about it won’t make it happen. You got to act. You got to do something out there. You got to be present even more and do better.
“Definitely much better playing finals than being stuck behind in the semifinals. I’ll take that for sure. I just need to take that one more step where I can consistently lift trophies and win Slams and Masters 1000 events.”
Had Tsitsipas won, he would have been No. 1, something that he still targets.
“I want to max out in what I do in my profession. No. 1 is on my mind,” he said. “It doesn’t come easy, I know that. I got to work harder to make that happen. Today was my opportunity to be a World No. 1. I had a better opponent on the other side of the net who did things much better than me. He deserves that spot currently.
“I am born a champion. I can feel it in my blood. I can feel it as a competitive kid that I was when I was young. It’s something that is within me. I want to harvest that, make it bloom, make it even stronger and fonder, work hard towards those goals.
”It’s that beautiful number, the number ‘1’, that will make things extremely emotional when converting that.”
Djokovic’s numbers continue to pile. He now is all alone in fourth on the Open Era title leaderboard with 94. He was won his last 28 matches at the Australian Open, 41 straight in Australia and 17 straight wins. At 35, he serving better and hitting the ball harder than ever. He and Nadal will go into the French Open locked at 22.
“I am motivated to win as many Slams as possible. At this stage of my career, these trophies are the biggest motivational factor of why I still compete,” said Djokovic who has won 10 of his last 12 Grand Slam finals. “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. 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 intentions 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.
“Physically I can keep myself fit. Of course, 35 is not 25, even though I want to believe it is. But I still feel there is time ahead of me. Let’s see how far I go.”
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