Match Report

Perfect 10: Djokovic Returns To No. 1 With 22nd Major At AO

Serbian downs Tsitsipas for record-extending 10th Melbourne title
January 29, 2023
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic celebrates after claiming a record-extending 10th Australian Open title on Sunday in Melbourne. By Andy West

A familiar tale, but a groundbreaking one all the same.

Novak Djokovic claimed a record-extending 10th Australian Open title Sunday in Melbourne, where he rode the challenge of Stefanos Tsitsipas to prevail 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) in the final of the hard-court Grand Slam. With his victory, the Serbian tied Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 Grand Slam crowns.

The historic achievement triggered an outpouring of emotion from Djokovic, who climbed into his player box to share a tear-filled moment with his team while celebrations also erupted among the sea of Serbian flags in Melbourne Park’s Garden Square.

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“This is one of the most challenging tournaments that I have ever played in my life,” said Djokovic, who was unable to compete in Melbourne in 2022 and arrived for this year’s tournament nursing a left hamstring issue. “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.”

Before the final, Tsitsipas’ powerful serve had been touted as key to his title chances. Yet it was Djokovic who ended the match with a superior serving record, which included winning 82 per cent (54/66) of points behind his first delivery compared to 72 per cent (50/69) for the Greek. Djokovic also struck close to half the unforced errors of Tsitsipas (22 to 42) en route to improving his match record for the season to 12-0.

The 35-year-old’s triumph also sealed his return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time since last June. Djokovic will replace Carlos Alcaraz in top spot on Monday after notching his 10th tour-level victory in a row against Tsitsipas, who would have claimed top spot himself with victory in Sunday’s final.

<a href=''>Novak Djokovic</a>
Novak Djokovic lifts the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for a record-extending 10th time. Photo Credit: Martin Keep/AFP via Getty Images

Despite so much riding on the match, Djokovic confidently assumed control early on Rod Laver Arena. Although the Greek raised his game in the second and third sets to ensure some absorbing rallies whipped up an intense atmosphere in the crowd, the Serbian was clinical at key moments to seal a two-hour, 56-minute victory and improve his record in Australian Open finals to 10-0.

“Novak, I don’t know what to say. I think it speaks for itself with what you have achieved so far,” said Tsitsipas during the trophy ceremony. “It is all in the numbers, so congratulations. Not only to yourself but having such a supportive family. It has been such an unbelievable journey for you and I admire what you have done for our sport.

"[You] make me a better player when I am on court. Novak brings the best out of me and these are the matches I have been working my entire life for. He is one of the greatest in our sport.”

Most Grand Slam Men's Singles Titles (All-Time)

Grand Slam Titles
Novak Djokovic
Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer
Pete Sampras
Roy Emerson
Bjorn Borg
Rod Laver

How The Match Played Out
It was the second meeting between Djokovic and Tsitsipas in a major final. At Roland Garros in 2021, Djokovic rallied from two-sets-to-love down to defeat the Greek and claim victory on the Paris clay, but he gave Tsitsipas few opportunities to establish a similar lead on Sunday in Melbourne.

Despite Tsitsipas scoring an early morale-booster in the first set by saving two break points from 15/40 to hold for 1-1, Djokovic’s typically consistent and accurate groundstrokes dominated the early stages. He frequently piled pressure onto the Tsitsipas backhand, and the Greek was unable to repeat the escape in the fourth game, when Djokovic clinched the only break of the set.

Needing to change the rhythm of the match, Tsitsipas’ booming serve and huge forehand belatedly began to fire. On several occasions in the second set, the Greek reacted to winning crucial points by rousing his supporters in the crowd, and the third seed fed off the febrile atmosphere to raise his level on Rod Laver Arena.

<a href=''>Stefanos Tsitsipas</a>
Stefanos Tsitsipas fires a forehand during Sunday's Australian Open final. Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Yet although Tsitsipas carved out the sole break point chance of the set (which doubled as a set point) at 4-5, 30/40, Djokovic found a way to pull through. He arrowed a sublime forehand winner to save the set point and held his nerve again to claim the tie-break despite having dropped three straight points to surrender a 4/1 lead.

Tsitsipas again threatened a resurgence in the third set, claiming his only break of the match in the opening game. As he so often has on the big stage throughout his career, however, Djokovic responded immediately. He broke back in the next game before clinching a third set dominated by serve — and his historic victory — with a commanding tie-break display.

Despite falling just short of becoming the first Greek to win a Grand Slam title, Tsitsipas will return to his career-high of No. 3 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday after reaching his maiden final in Melbourne.

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