Djokovic wins the 10th Australian Open and 22nd Grand Slam, equaling Nadal’s record for most ever

Melbourne, Australia – Novak Djokovic found this trip to Australia far less complicated and far more successful than a a year ago.

Unable to compete in his best event in 2022 after being expelled from the country for not being vaccinated against COVID-19, Djokovic achieved everything he could have wished for on his return: starting his winning streak at Melbourne Park bounced back and made it back to the top of tennis.

Challenged only briefly in Sunday night’s final, Djokovic was simply better in the crucial moments, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 7-6(4) 7-6(5) for a record-breaking 10th Australian Open championship and a record-breaking 22nd .Grand Slam title overall. As a bonus, Djokovic will jump from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a position he has already held for more weeks than any other man.

“He is the greatest who has ever held a tennis racket,” said Tsitsipas.

Djokovic extended his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 games, the tournament’s longest streak for a man in the Open era, dating back to 1968. He adds the No. 10 trophy there to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the US Open – where he was also absent last year due to a lack of coronavirus shots – and two at the French Open to match rival Rafael Nadal at the most matched by a man in tennis history.

Most women have Margaret Court at 24, Serena Williams at 23 and Steffi Graf at 22.

This was also the 93rd ATP Tour-level title for Djokovic, allowing the 35-year-old from Serbia to break a tie with Nadal for fourth most. Jimmy Connors holds that mark at 109.

Djokovic attended his 33rd grand final, Tsitsipas his second – and the 24-year-old from Greece’s other also ended in defeat to Djokovic at the 2021 French Open.

Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the Australian Open on January 29, 2023 at Melbourne Park.
Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the Australian Open on January 29, 2023 at Melbourne Park.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

He was consistently superior to Tsitsipas, but especially in the two tie-breaks. He took a 4-1 lead in the first game and scored three points in a row after 4-3. Leading 5-0 in the final tiebreak, he pointed to his temple at the end, then climbed onto the stands, clenched his fist and jumped with his coach Goran Ivanisevic and other members of the entourage and collapsed crying.

No doubt that’s no consolation for Tsitsipas, but there’s no shame in not beating Djokovic in Melbourne. Challenging his dominance on those blue hard courts is by any measure the monumental task of taking on Nadal on the red clay at Roland Garros.

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of tiring, lung-burning back and forth that Djokovic has built his superlative career on. How did that work? From points with at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

On the other hand, on the rare occasions when Tsitsipas attacked the net, Tsitsipas probably regretted the choice because Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too difficult to handle.

One of Djokovic’s many other strengths is his return leg and he amassed three break points in 17 minutes, converting the last one for a quick 3-1 lead when Tsitsipas made a double fault.

The trophy they were playing for was displayed on a pedestal near one corner of the field and both men always got within reach walking over at that end to dry off between points.

So close, yes, but never really close enough for Tsitsipas.

Novak Djokovic speaks with Stefanos Tsitsipas during the medal ceremony after the Australian Open January 29, 2023 in Melbourne.

DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images

It’s not that Tsitsipas played all that badly, save for a series of early errors that seemed more a product of the tension than anything else.

Simply put, Djokovic was too good. Too accurate with his shots – he only made 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his opponent – and anticipation. Chases too fast and flexible (except at a second set point when Djokovic crashed to his left). Too dangerous with his returns and damaging enough with his serves.

Djokovic shoves and shoves and shoves some more until it’s the opponent who’s a little less than perfect on a shot, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

Over the past two weeks, Djokovic has been on his mind for more than just forehand and backhand.

There was the not-so-minor thing with last year’s legal saga – he’s alternately admitted it served as motivation, but also recently said “I’m over it” – and curiosity about the kind of reception he’d get to get.

He heard a lot of loud support but also had to deal with some persistent heckling throughout the competition, including applause after Sunday’s errors.

There was the sore left hamstring, which was heavily bandaged for every game – until the finals, that is, when only a single piece of beige sports tape was visible – which had troubled him early in the first week and caused him to turn around What he said was “a lot” of painkilling pills and other treatments, which he didn’t elaborate on.

And then there was the more complicated affair of his father Srdjan, who was filmed with a group of people holding Russian flags – one with a picture of Vladimir Putin – after Djokovic’s quarter-final win. The tournament banned spectators from bringing flags of Russia or Belarus as doing so would cause disruption due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Both Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding based on Srdjan thinking he was with a group of Serbian fans.

Due to this episode, Srdjan Djokovic did not take part in his son’s semi-final win over Tommy Paul on Friday and was not seen in Djokovic’s guest box on Sunday.

Regardless, Djokovic managed to outdo himself as he often does and win 17 straight sets after dropping one in the second round last week. Djokovic wins the 10th Australian Open and 22nd Grand Slam, equaling Nadal’s record for most ever

Rick Schindler

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