Djokovic battles Tsitsipas in high stakes Australian Open final

Did you know? Djokovic has never lost an Australian Open final

By Reuters

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (left) is eyeing for his first Grand Slam title, while Novak Djokovic is aiming to draw level with Rafael Nadal with a 22nd-Major. — AFP
Stefanos Tsitsipas (left) is eyeing for his first Grand Slam title, while Novak Djokovic is aiming to draw level with Rafael Nadal with a 22nd-Major. — AFP

Published: Sat 28 Jan 2023, 5:53 PM

Last updated: Sat 28 Jan 2023, 8:59 PM

Novak Djokovic will look to rise above the drama that has engulfed him at Melbourne Park and claim a record-extending 10th Australian Open title on Sunday in a generational clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

A year after being deported from Australia on the eve of the Grand Slam for lacking Covid-19 vaccination, Djokovic has battled a hamstring strain, heckling spectators and a media storm over his father mixing with fans toting banned Russian flags at the tennis.


In handling everything within his control, though, Djokovic has been supreme.

The Serb's dominant semifinal victory over American Tommy Paul on Friday stretched his winning streak at the event to a record 27 in the professional era, eclipsing Andre Agassi's 26-match run between 2000 to 2004.


Never beaten at Melbourne Park after reaching the semis, fourth seed Djokovic is rated the favourite to triumph again under the floodlights at Rod Laver Arena.

Despite that, the decider presents possibly the best matchup fans could have hoped for following the early exit of injured champion Rafael Nadal.

It offers a rematch of the dramatic 2021 French Open final, in which Djokovic came back from two sets down to snatch the title and leave Greek Tsitsipas heartbroken.

Not that the match was fresh in Djokovic's memory.

"I think he (Tsitsipas) has never played a (Grand Slam) finals, am I wrong?" Djokovic asked incredulous reporters this week.

The stakes are sky-high for both players.

At 35, Djokovic needs one major title to draw level with 36-year-old Nadal's 22 in the all-time Grand Slam race.

Meanwhile third seed Tsitsipas is desperate to become the first Greek to win a Grand Slam crown, having put the nation on the tennis map.

Whoever wins will take the world number one ranking from Spain's Carlos Alcaraz, who missed the tournament through injury.

At 24, Tsitsipas may feel his time has come. He buried his semifinal hoodoo at Melbourne Park against Russian bruiser Karen Khachanov in four sets on Friday after falling three times previously at the hurdle.

"These are the moments I've been working hard for," said Tsitsipas.

"To be able to play in finals that have a bigger meaning than just the final."

The atmosphere promises to be electric, and possibly volatile as tension builds.

Melbourne's strong Greek community, the most populous outside Greece itself, will be in full voice at Rod Laver Arena.

They will rival the army of Serbian supporters who have gorged on Djokovic's success since his first title at Melbourne Park as a 20-year-old in 2008.

Neutral fans, meanwhile, could well rally behind Tsitsipas in the hope of seeing a genuine contest.

With a huge serve, thumping groundstrokes and comfort on all areas of the court, Tsitsipas has the weapons to trouble anyone on tour. Whether he has the endurance and mental fortitude to dislodge iron man Djokovic remains to be seen.

For all the huff and puff of the younger generation, only Daniil Medvedev has managed to beat the Serb in a completed match at a hardcourt Grand Slam since a shock fourth round loss to Chung Hyeon in the 2018 Australian Open.

Not even Nadal or retired great Roger Federer have ever bested Djokovic in a final at Melbourne Park, and the Serb is hell-bent on extending that incredible record.

"Of course, I have professional goals and ambitions. Those are Grand Slams and being number one in the world," said Djokovic.

"So I do want to make more history of this sport, no doubt."

Sunday's Order of play

ROD LAVER ARENA

Women's doubles final (8 am UAE Time)

1-Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova (both Czech Republic) v 10-Shuko Aoyama/Ena Shibahara (both Japan)

Men's singles final (12:30 pm UAE Time)

3-Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece) v 4-Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

Djokovic v Tsitsipas:

Australian Open men's final facts

Facts and figures ahead of Sunday's Australian Open men's final (x denotes seeding):

Novak Djokovic (SRB x4) v Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x3)

Head-to-head: Djokovic leads 10-2

Fast facts

Novak Djokovic

Age: 35

World ranking: 5

Prize money: $164,786,653

Career titles: 92

Grand Slam titles: 21

Australian Open best: Champion (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021)

Coach: Goran Ivanisevic

Path to the final:

1st rd: bt Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-3, 6-4, 6-0

2nd rd: bt Enzo Couacaud (FRA) 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-0

3rd rd: bt Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x27) 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-4,

4th rd: bt Alex de Minaur (AUS x22) 6-2, 6-1, 6-2

Quarter-final: bt Andrey Rublev (RUS x5) 6-1, 6-2, 6-4

Semi-final: bt Tommy Paul (USA) 7-5, 6-1, 6-2

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Age: 24

World ranking: 4

Prize money: $23,655,204

Career titles: 9

Grand Slam titles: 0

Australian Open best: Final (2023)

Coach: Apostolos Tsitsipas

Path to the final:

1st rd: bt Quentin Halys (FRA) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (8/6)

2nd rd: bt Rinky Hijikata (AUS) 6-3, 6-0, 6-2

3rd rd: bt Tallon Griekspoor (NED) 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3

4th rd: bt Jannik Sinner (ITA x15) 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3

Quarter-final: bt Jiri Lehecka (CZE) 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4

Semi-final: bt Karen Khachanov (RUS x18) 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3

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