Novak Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas to win his 10th Australian Open title and equal Rafael Nadal’s 22 Grand Slam crowns on Sunday — an achievement that he dubbed “the biggest victory in my life”.
The Serbian will return to world #1, too, as he swept past the Greek third seed 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5) on Rod Laver Arena.
After the victory, the 35-year-old climbed to the player’s box to embrace his mother and brother and broke down in tears, collapsing to the ground sobbing.
His father, Srdjan, was missing from the audience after he was filmed earlier with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal victory, sparking controversy.
The victory over Tsitsipas capped a remarkable return for Djokovic to Melbourne Park after he was deported from Australia last year because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I have to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played considering the circumstances, not playing last year, coming back this year,” he said.
“I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, to be comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”
“I try to pinch myself and really live through these moments. It’s a long journey,” Djokovic added.
“Only my team and family know what we have been through in the last four or five weeks, and this is why I’d probably say this is the biggest victory in my life considering the circumstances.”
After his three-year ban from Australia was lifted, Djokovic stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run at the tournament for a man in the Open era dating back to 1968.
He added his Melbourne trophy number 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the US Open and two at the French Open, matching his rival Nadal for the most by a man in tennis history.
Margaret Court, with 24, Serena Williams, 23, and Steffi Graf, 22, have the most among women.
This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, allowing the 35-year-old from Serbia to break a tie with Nadal for the fourth most titles. Jimmy Connors still holds that record at 109.
Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second.
He was superior throughout the match against the Greek, especially in the two tiebreakers.
Djokovic took a 4-1 lead in the first and after it was 4-all, pulled off three points in a row.
He then led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker. After winning the matchpoint, he pointed to his temple, climbed into the stands, pumped his fist and jumped with his coach Goran Ivanisevic and other entourage members, and collapsed, overjoyed.