Novak Djokovic has returned to Melbourne with a vengeance a year after being deported from the country to take out his tenth Australian Open title.
The former world No. 1 capped off a dominant fortnight with another convincing victory, this time over world No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) in two hours and 56 minutes.
Despite all the outside noise that’s followed him during his 2023 Australian Open campaign, Djokovic has cut a calm figure - determined to equal his great rival Rafael Nadal on 22 major titles and make Rod Laver Arena his own again after a year away.
There was an outpour of emotion from the 35-year-old following the victory as he climbed into his players' box and celebrated with his team after a difficult past year.
“This is one of the most challenging tournaments that I have ever played in my life,” Djokovic said on court.
“Not playing last year, coming back this year. I want to thank all the people who made me feel welcome.
“There is a reason why I have played my best tennis on this court, in front of legendary Rod Laver. Thank you so much for being present tonight.
“It is a long journey. All my team and family knows what we have been through in the past four or five weeks and this is probably the biggest victory of my life.”
Djokovic’s form from his past two matches rolled over into the opening set as he controlled each point like a choir conductor. Tsitsipas was dictated to and was forced to play the game Djokovic wanted him to play.
Before the Greek knew it, he was down a break and staring down the barrel of a nigh impossible task - coming from a set down to defeat Djokovic in a major.
Making matters worse for Tsitsipas was the quality of Djokovic’s serve. The Serb only lost a singular point when landing his first serve, while only dropping four points on his follow-up attempts.
The second set proved a much fairer contest, with Tsitsipas finding his groove to the delight of the Greek fans in and around Melbourne Park. Tsitsipas’ growing confidence was evident as he started to push Djokovic off the baseline with his forehand. Yet, as he has shown time and time again over his career, Djokovic absorbed the pressure and defended as though his life depended on it.
The second set was delicately poised in the tiebreak before Tsitsipas missed long on serve at 4-4 to give Djokovic the mini-break he required to seal the deal.
There looked to be life in Tsitsipas with an early break in the opening game of the final set, however, his hopes were dashed when he was broken back the very next game.
The set remained on serve until the tiebreak, where Djokovic raced away to 5-0 lead to all but seal a record-equalling 22nd major title.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for Tsitsipas who enjoyed one of the finest tournaments of his career to date. If it weren’t for the man on the other side of the net, there’s every chance he would be able to call himself a dual Grand Slam champion.
Following the loss, he thanked Djokovic for all he has done for the sport and his own game.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey for you,” Tsitsipas said on court.
“I admire what you have done for our sport, I think you make me a better player when I’m on the court.
“I’ve had the privilege to play a lot of difficult, high-intensity matches, but I’d like to say one more time, Novak brings the best out of me. These are the matches, you know, I’ve been working my entire life for.
“He’s the greatest that has ever held the racquet.”
Tsitsipas will return to his previous high of World No. 3 following his Australian Open run while Djokovic will return to the No. 1 spot.