Ten of the best: Djokovic’s dominance at Australian Open

By AFP
January 30, 2023

MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic extended his unparalleled record of Australian Open titles to 10 with victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday.

AFP Sport recalls Djokovic´s incredible run of success on the way to becoming the undoubted king of Melbourne Park:

Becomes first Serb to win a Grand Slam. Then 20, he burst into the big time with a straight-sets victory in the semi-finals over world number one Roger Federer.

In the final he beat Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

"Every player dreams of winning a Grand Slam. I am still not fully aware of what I have achieved these past two weeks," the young Djokovic said.

It was three long years before Djokovic secured a second major triumph, and he put his success down to a gluten-free diet.

It heralded a golden year where he won three of the four Grand Slam titles.

He lost only one set the entire fortnight in Melbourne including defeating defending champion Federer again in the semi-finals, before overpowering Andy Murray in the final.

Djokovic said he decided to change his backroom team, as well as his diet, after a disappointing 2010.

"I had to try to find the best possible solution and try to get back on the right track. That´s what I did," he said.

Djokovic´s first successful Grand Slam defence involved feats of endurance rarely witnessed before in tennis.

After a five-set battle against Murray in the semi-final, he then had to fight for almost six hours against Rafael Nadal to win the title.

It was the longest Grand Slam singles final in the Open era and ended at 1:37 am.

Djokovic ripped off his shirt and roared at the end of the epic match which he won 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 in 5hr 53min.

"Physically it was the toughest match I ever played," said Nadal, after addressing the crowd with: "Good morning!"

Djokovic became the first man since the Open era began in 1968 to win three Australian titles in a row after overpowering Murray in four sets.

"It´s definitely my favourite Grand Slam, my most successful Grand Slam. I love this court," said Djokovic.

Djokovic was beaten in the 2014 quarter-finals by Stan Wawrinka, the eventual champion, but was back to his punishing best a year later.

After exacting revenge on the Swiss in the semi-finals he again rolled over Murray for the title, inflicting a humiliating 6-0 bagel on the Scot in the final set to tie Andre Agassi on the all-time list with eight Grand Slam titles.

His wife Jelena had given birth to their son Stefan three months earlier.

"I think it has deeper meaning, more intrinsic value now to my life because I´m a father and a husband," said Djokovic.

The records kept tumbling as he clinched a sixth Melbourne crown to equal Roy Emerson´s pre-Open era record and win a third consecutive major title after Wimbledon and the US Open in 2015.

He would complete the "Djokovic Slam" at the French Open to hold all four majors at the same time.

He defeated Murray for a fourth time in the championship match.

"It´s an incredible feeling, especially because of the fact that I managed to make history tonight and equal Roy Emerson´s record of six Australian Opens," he said.

After two years battling injury, including undergoing elbow surgery, he swatted aside old rival Nadal in the final to claim a record seventh Australian Open and 15th Grand Slam title to go ahead of his childhood idol, Pete Sampras.

"It was definitely a sign of destiny to start playing tennis, to aspire to be as good as Pete," Djokovic said. "To surpass him with Grand Slam titles, I´m speechless."

Djokovic captured his eighth Australian Open title and earned his 900th tour-level match win on the way.

Federer was dispatched in straight sets in the semi-final but Dominic Thiem gave Djokovic his hardest final since the Nadal epic in 2012.

Djokovic eventually fought back from two sets to one down to secure his 17th major.

"Obviously at this stage of my career, Grand Slams are the ones I value the most. They are the ones I prioritise," he said.

Djokovic looked on his way out when he could barely run because of an abdominal injury in the third round against Taylor Fritz, but somehow survived in five sets.

He was unable to train between matches, but grew fitter with every passing round and reached the final.

World number four Daniil Medvedev went the way of the Serb´s eight previous final opponents as a rampant Djokovic extended his perfect record in finals in Melbourne. .