An emotional Novak Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas Sunday to claim a 10th Australian Open title and equal Rafael Nadal’s 22 Grand Slam crowns, a victory that returned him to world No 1.
The Serbian star overcame a hamstring injury and off-court drama on his return to Melbourne Park to sweep past the Greek third seed 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5) on Rod Laver Arena.
He surged to victory without father Srdjan in the stands after he sparked controversy by posing with a fan carrying a Russian flag featuring Vladimir Putin’s face following his son’s quarterfinal win.
Djokovic climbed to his player’s box after the win to embrace his mother and broke down in uncontrollable tears, collapsing to the ground sobbing.
It capped a remarkable comeback by the 35-year-old fourth seed, who missed last year’s tournament when he was deported over his Covid vaccination stance.
After a three-year ban from Australia was lifted, Djokovic won the lead-up Adelaide International before reinforcing his stature as an all-time great in Melbourne.
The emphatic win drew him level with Nadal on a record 22 Slams, two clear of Roger Federer.
The Spanish great made a shock second-round exit with a hip injury, but is targeting a return for the clay-court season and another crack at the French Open, and with it a 23rd Slam title.
Nadal, though, is set to slide down the rankings when they are released on Monday, in contrast to Djokovic, who will dethrone Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz and return to the top for the first time since June. Tsitsipas will climb one place to three.
Both men were back on a court that helped them rise to stardom.
Djokovic won his first Grand Slam in 2008 on Rod Laver Arena while Tsitsipas burst on the scene in 2019 when he stunned defending champion Federer in the last 16.
With sizable Greek and Serbian communities in Melbourne, and Rod Laver in attendance, there was a raucous atmosphere.