Novak Djokovic has drawn level with Rafael Nadal with the most grand slam singles titles of all time in men’s tennis.
The Serbian champion won his 10th Australian Open crown, making it 22 overall – the equal most of any male player ever.
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He was at his blistering best in a clinical 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5) performance over Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas.
But fans were quick to notice a subtle statement he made during the post-match trophy presentation.
Djokovic pulled out a white jacket that already had the number ‘22’ embossed on the right breast, a nod to his own new record.
The premade jacket immediately blew up the internet, with some loving it and others hating it, calling it “cringe”.
Djokovic preserved his aura of invincibility on Rod Laver Arena to see off Tsitsipas in a briefly competitive but ultimately anticlimactic championship decider on Sunday night.
The 35-year-old joins 14-times French Open champion Nadal as only the second man to win the same slam on at least 10 occasions.
Unbeaten – still – in finals on RLA and without a defeat in 41 matches in Australia since 2018, Djokovic did not need his father’s courtside support to take another giant stride towards sporting immortality.
Srdjan Djokovic was conspicuously absent from the champion’s box, despite being given the green light to attend the final after being swept up in something of an international incident by posing with pro-Russian fans at the tournament last week.
He will be sure to join the after party, though, after his son completed a triumphant and tumultuous return to his happiest grand slam hunting ground following last year’s dramatic deportation from Australia on the eve of his 2021 Open defence.
The great Rod Laver was fittingly front and centre with the best view in the house named in his honour for the Serb’s latest history-making act.
In addition to the spoils, records and the $2.975 million winner’s cheque, Djokovic will also return to world No.1 on Monday, for a seventh stint atop the rankings, after once again denying Tsitsipas an elusive maiden major and the chance to scale the summit himself for the first time.
Djokovic also beat Tsitsipas in the 2021 French Open decider.
This time, though, the Serb was not forced to recover from two sets down after dominating the third seed for much of the match.
After seizing the opening set with the lone break in the fourth game, and looking utterly untroubled on his own serve, Djokovic was briefly rattled late in the second stanza.
Storming the net with success, after being thoroughly bossed from the baseline, Tsitsipas fashioned a set point in the 10th game only for Djokovic to save it with a forehand winner.
Opportunity lost, Tsitsipas fell two sets behind after Djokovic sealed the tiebreaker and assumed total command when the Greek flayed a forehand wide.
And when Tsitsipas relinquished an early break in the third set, then surrendered another tiebreaker, it was game, set and match Djokovic after two hours and 55 minutes.
“It’s not easy. Another final at a grand slam, but I’m always willing to go back on court and work harder,” said a shattered Tsitsipas, who has lost his past 10 matches against Djokovic.
Accepting the runners-up trophy from four-time former Australian Open champion Ken Rosewall, Tsitsipas paid tribute to the champion and said Djokovic was the best player of all-time.
“I’ve had the privilege to play a lot of difficult, high-intensity matches but I would like to say one more time Novak brings the best out in me,” he said.
“He’s the one of the greatest in our sport and I think – he’s the greatest that has ever held a tennis racquet for sure.”
Then to Djokovic, he added: “I’d like to thank you for pushing our sport, every single player, every single individual that’s involved in the sport to the max.”
– With AAP
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