Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th
Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and,
after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.
When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried
his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.
This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago — when he was
deported because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19 — although difficult in its
own ways: a bad hamstring; some off-court tumult involving his father. Yet Djokovic
accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his
winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring:
“This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”
Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial
moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will
vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more
weeks than any other man.
“This has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life,
considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,”
Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to
thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in
Melbourne, to be in Australia.”
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The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28
matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy
No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was
absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to
match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.
Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are
ahead of him.
This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for
“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.
“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”
Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the
24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.
On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from
supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire,
Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.
He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the
closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a
prelude to all of the tears.
“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran
Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He
managed to overcome everything.”