The men’s final was played on Sunday, 29 January and Novak Djokovic defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas on Rod Laver Arena – 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5). ‘He is the greatest tennis player’ – Djokovic equals Rafael Nadal’s 22 Grand Slam titles.
Novak Djokovic came up with a new and unexpected celebration after claiming his 10th Australian Open title. Rather than lying on his back in a conventional manner, he pointed at his head, then his heart, then finally his underpants.
The man does indeed have cojones.
Asked about the gesture after the match, he replied ”It’s a little code language we have. They (his entourage) understand. It takes, yeah, a big heart, of course, a lot of mental strength, and the third thing as well to make it.”
Djokovic is so superior to his rivals that he had just eased through the tournament despite carrying a hamstring injury since day one.
After all the adversity he has faced – from the echoes of last year’s deportation to the controversy around his father, Srdjan – the last fortnight has been testing on numerous levels.
But he quelled the rough seas around him and eventually arrived at his goal.
The emotions spilt out after his victory and he sat in his courtside chair and sobbed into his towel, releasing the tension of a stress-filled month.
”Only my team and family know what we have been through these past four to five weeks,” said Djokovic during his presentation speech. ”This is probably the biggest victory in my life considering the circumstances.”
Cheekily Djokovic had come prepared with a jacket emblazoned with the figure ”22”, which he pulled on ahead of the ceremony.
This denotes his 22 Grand-Slam titles, now that he has drawn level with Rafael Nadal at the top of a table which has also been described as ”the Goat race”. (The acronym stands for ”greatest of all time”.)
Tsitsipas has already come to his own conclusion, telling the Rod Laver Arena crowd that, ”He is the greatest that has ever held a tennis racket for sure.”
On today’s evidence, he is more than capable of sweeping the board this year, thus opening up clear water between himself and the rest of the ”Big Three”.
After the presentation, Djokovic spoke about his tearful moment. ”It was just one of those moments where you feel a huge burden is off your back,” he said. ”It was a huge relief. At that point when I hugged my mother and brother, especially, I just teared up and got very emotional and collapsed on the floor and started crying.
I just was releasing all the emotions that had gotten stuck because I had to find the strong masculine energy to sustain the pressure of going all the way.”
Earlier, Djokovic had arrived on court without the heavy strapping that has encircled his left thigh for the rest of the tournament. Did this rattle his opponent?
Perhaps, because Tsitsipas got off to a disappointing start, framing a number of groundstrokes and struggling to find the court with his first serve.
The second set found Tsitsipas taking the initiative. He didn’t allow Djojovic a single breakpoint, which is another rarity here.
But he couldn’t convert his own opportunity (there was only one) and lost his nerve in what was a jittery tie-break from both men.
Tsitsipas was philosophical after the match, suggesting that ”getting our asses kicked is for sure a very good lesson every single time.”
But he will look at his forehand statistics – 11 winners, 27 unforced errors – and wonder what went wrong with his stronger wing. Some of this was down to Djokovic’s phenomenal court coverage, which remains equally as supreme in his 36th year as it was when he first won the title here in 2008.
Clinching his latest triumph via the third set tie-break, he finished the night having dropped only a single set in the tournament – and that was when his hamstring played up against French qualifier Enzo Couacaud in the second round.
”A lot of people doubted I was injured,” Djokovic told Channel Nine afterwards. ”It did affect me in the first week. I highly doubt if it wasn’t a major I would keep on playing because I didn’t practise between the matches.”
Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic also gave his own perspective on the problematic hamstring. ”Ninety-seven percent of the players, on Saturday when you get the result of the MRI scan, you go straight to the referee’s office and pull out of the tournament, ” said Ivanisevic.
”But not him. He is from outer space.”
Djokovic celebrated his victory beneath the stadium with his father Srdjan, who has been keeping away from courtside since he was photographed with pro-Putin supporters on Wednesday night.
”Of course there were things that were happening, also events of last few days with my father, that were not easy for me to handle,” said Djokovic later. ”I thought things will calm down in terms of media and everything, but they didn’t.
We both agreed it would probably be better that he is not there. That hurts him and me a lot because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows if they repeat again. So it was not easy for him.” Still, there is plenty for Djokovic to like as his 10th AO title returned him to his rightful place as world No.1.
He intends to build on this by playing Dubai next, which starts 27 February, and still hopes that the USA will relax it’s vaccination policy in time for him to attend Indian Wells (March 6). As to whether he will win more majors, he replied ominously that, ”I like my chances.”
With acknowledgement and thanks to the Telegraph Sports department and Simon Briggs.