Novak Djokovic won his 10th Australian Open and will return to the No. 1 ranking after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) on Sunday to claim a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title.
The Serb, supported by at least half of the 15,000 inside the Laver arena and an estimated 30,000 watching around the grounds of Melbourne Park on giant screens, overcame his Greek opponent for the 11th time in their 13 meetings.
He claimed his 93rd career title with his 28th consecutive win at the Open after Tsitsipas saved two match points in the third-set tiebreaker.
He scrambled into the stands post-match to hug it out with his coaching team and family before returning to his bench and burying his face in a towel.
It took nearly three hours for the 35-year-old to pull level with Rafael Nadal at the top of the all-time men’s trophy table; Roger Federer retired last September with 20 majors.
“This was one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life,” an emotional Djokovic said.
“Not paying last year, coming back this year.. people made me feel welcome and comfortable.
“I have to pinch myself when living through this moment. Only my team and family know what we have been through the last few weeks.
“But this is probably the biggest victory of my life considering the circumstances.”
The winner also had kind words for his defeated opponent:
“On court we are fierce competitors, but that doesn’t mean we don’t respect each other.
“I congratulate you on an amazing tournament, tough luck tonight but a great battle.
“This is definitely not your last Grand Slam final. You have lots of time – much more than me,” the 35-year-old told his 24-year-old opponent.
Tsitsipas was defeated for the second time in a Grand Slam final after losing to Djokovic in the Roland Garros title match two years ago despite winning the first two sets.
While Djokovic will take back the top ranking spot from Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz on Monday, Tsitsipas will claim the third spot, his career-best ranking.
The Serb showed no signs of the leg injury which has been heavily taped throughout the fortnight as he came to the court with just a modest taping.
Tsitsipas, with 10 career titles, remains without a tournament trophy outside of his native Europe.
Djokovic polished his perfect record in Melbourne finals as he won his tenth without a defeat.
Djokovic snapped up the opening set in barely half an hour, losing just five points on serve and never facing a break point.
The Tsitsipas resistance stiffened in the second set with back-to-back love holds.
The Greek kept it all on serve, pushing Djokovic to frustration at being forced onto defence in the seventh game to trail 4-3.
With Djokovic still seething and yelling at coach Goran Ivanisevic, the set went into a tiebreaker as the Serb started to calm down.
But there was still work to do, with Tsitsipas fighting back from 4-1 down to level at 4-all. Djokovic earned a set point as his opponent returned long and took a two-sets-to-love lead seconds later when Tsitsipas hit the net with a return.
The third set started seven minutes late due to an aerial drone show above the venue which interrupted the flow of the match.
Djokovic got off to a poor start after the interruption, dropping serve in the opening game,
A break point in the second game on the Tsitsipas serve went begging before the Serb got the job done for 1-1 on his second chance.
With the set going into a decider, Djokovic took a 5-0 lead before his opponent could react, earning an emotional victory as Tsitsipas sent a return long.
“This match speaks for itself,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s all in the numbers, congrats.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey for you,” he said to Djokovic. “I admire what you have done for our sport.
“You make me a better player when I’m on the court with you.
“I’ve played a lot of high-intensity matches, but Novak brings out the best in me. He;s one of the greatest in our sport.
“He pushes every other payer to the max.”
Main photo:- Australian Open 2023 Novak Djokovic (SRB) celebrates with his player box as he wins Men’s singles final by Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd