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Djokovic wins Australian Open, equals Nadal’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles

Djokovic wins Australian Open, equals Nadal’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles


Novak Djokovic found this trip to Australia much less complicated and much more successful than the one he took a year ago.

Unable to compete in his best event in 2022 after being deported from the country for not being vaccinated against COVID-19, Djokovic has achieved everything he could have wished for on his return: he resumed his winning ways in Melbourne Park and reached the pinnacle of tennis.

Only briefly challenged in Sunday night’s final, Djokovic was simply better in the most crucial moments, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) for a record-extending 10th Australian Open Championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title overall. As a bonus, Djokovic jumps from No. 5 to No. 1 on the ATP rankings, a spot he has held for weeks more than any other man.

He is the largest to ever hold a tennis racket, Tsitsipas said.

Djokovic extended his unbeaten run in Melbourne to 28 games, the longest streak at the tournament for a man in the Open era, dating back to 1968, adding trophy No. 10 to Wimbledon’s seven, three from the U.S. Open where he was also absent last year due to no coronavirus inoculations and two at the French Open, to equal rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in tennis history.

Margaret Court, with 24, Serena Williams, with 23, and Steffi Graf, with 22, have the most wives.

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

Djokovic took part in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second and the 24-year-old from Greece’s other also ended in a loss to Djokovic, at the 2021 French Open.

He was superior against Tsitsipas, but especially in the two tiebreaks. He took a 4-1 lead in the first and after it was 4-all, he grabbed three runs. He led 5-0 in the final tiebreak and when it was done, he pointed to his temple, then climbed into the stands, clenched his fist and jumped with his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, and other members of the entourage, and collapsed crying together.

There is no doubt that this is no consolation for Tsitsipas, but there is no shame in not beating Djokovic in Melbourne. If anything, challenging his reign on those blue clay courts is the monumental task that is taking on Nadal on the red clay at Roland Garros.

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to participate in the kind of leg-straining, lung-scorching back-and-forth that Djokovic has built his superlative career on. How did that turn out? Of the points that lasted at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30,

On the other hand, on those rare occasions when Tsitsipas charged into the net, he probably regretted his choice, as Djokovic often conjured up a pass that was too difficult to handle.

One of Djokovic’s many other strengths is his second leg, and he amassed three break points within 17 minutes, converting the latter for a quick 3-1 lead as Tsitsipas double fouled.

The trophy they were playing for was on a pedestal near one corner of the field, and both men would come within range of it as they walked over to dry off between the spikes at that end.

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

It’s not like Tsitsipas played all that badly, apart from a series of early errors that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything else.

It’s that Djokovic was, simply put, too good. Too accurate with his blows making only 22 unforced errors, 20 less than his foe and anticipation. Too fast and flexible pursuit shots (except on a second set point, when Djokovic, running to the left, tumbled). Too dangerous with his returns and damaging enough with his serve.

Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is slightly less than perfect in one shot, misses or provides an opening to pounce.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind in the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small issue of last year’s legal saga, he’s alternately acknowledged that the whole thing served as a form of motivation, but also recently said, “I’m over it and curious to see the kind of reception he’d get to get.”

He heard a lot of loud cheers, but also had to deal with persistent neighing throughout the game, including applause after Sunday’s fouls.

There was the sore left hamstring that was heavily bandaged before every game up to the finals, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible and worried him at the start of Week 1, prompting him to turning to what he said was a bunch of pain-relieving pills and other treatments that he didn’t detail.

And then there was the more complicated case of his father, Srdjan, who was filmed with a group of people holding Russian flags, one with an image of Vladimir Putin following Djokovic’s quarter-final victory. The tournament banned spectators from bringing in flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Both Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding as Srdjan thought he was with a group of Serbian fans.

Because of that episode, Srdjan Djokovic was unable to attend his son’s semi-final victory over Tommy Paul on Friday, and was not seen in Djokovic’s guest box on Sunday.

Anyway, Djokovic managed to excel as he so often does, winning 17 sets in a row after conceding one in the second round last week.




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