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Sports Tennis

Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open of his elite career

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Since 2003, the sport of tennis has been subjected to an unprecedented run of dominance by three men – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Of the past 78 grand slams, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won 64 – an astounding 82%. 

Entering this year’s Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam, Djokovic had triumphed in 21 Slams, one more than the Swiss legend Federer and one less than the iconic Spaniard Nadal. 

Djokovic was not allowed to participate in the 2022 Australian Open due to the tournament’s policy on unvaccinated players and was even held in an immigration detention hotel after attempting to enter Australia without meeting the entry requirements for unvaccinated travelers. 

When speaking about the debacle in May, Djokovic described the “major toll” it took on him, stating, “The amount of pressure and everything that I was feeling in the first few months of the year [was] as much pressure as I’ve felt in my life and my career.” 

He went on to capture his seventh Wimbledon title in July of 2022, marking his 21st Grand Slam before again being withheld entry to the U.S. Open due to his unvaccinated status, denying him the opportunity to match Nadal’s 22 at Flushing Meadows. 

After being allowed entry to this year’s Australian Open, Djokovic had extra motivation to make up for lost time. In the first round, he eviscerated Roberto Caraballés Baena in straight sets and dropped just one set to French qualifier Enzo Couacaud in the second round. 

Before the tournament, ascendant star and world #1number 1 Carlos Alcaraz withdrew from the tournament due to a right leg injury, simplifying Djokovic’s path to a 22nd Slam victory. 

This good fortune continued into the tournament, as 1st seeded Rafael Nadal fell in straight sets to American Mackenzie McDonald in a shocking 2nd round upset. Similarly, Casper Ruud, the 2nd seeded men’s player, fell in four sets to American Jason Brooksby in yet another 2nd round upset. 

Djokovic continued to take care of business, beating 27th seeded Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets and thoroughly dominating 22nd seeded Alex de Minaur, only dropping five games the entire match. 

Meanwhile, Djokovic’s good fortune continued as Daniil Medvedev, one of the only men not named Nadal or Federer to defeat Djokovic in a Grand Slam final, fell to yet another American, Sebastian Korda, in the 3rd round. 

In the quarterfinals, Djokovic faced his first true test in the form of 5th-seeded Andrey Rublev. However, those expecting a close match were sorely disappointed. Rublev was not prepared for Djokovic’s level and was completely decimated, winning only seven7 games in three3 quick sets. 

Djokovic’s good fortune came to fruition in the semifinals, where he was faced with the supremely daunting task of securing a berth in the finals against unranked American Tommy Paul. Unsurprisingly, he did so in straight sets, dismantling the American on a day when he did not even play to his typical level. 

This victory set up a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas, marking Tsitsipas’ second appearance in a grand slam final. The first also came against Djokovic in the 2021 French Open, a match in which Tsitsipas held a two-set lead before Djokovic roared back to win in thrilling fashion. 

Tsitsipas, the Greek international, also had some good fortune on his path to the final – he did not face a match against a top 14 player until Djokovic in the final. He weathered a significant storm in the 4th round against Jannik Sinner, winning a five-set classic before easily defeating Sebastian Korda and Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. 

The final, in truth, was dull. Djokovic did not play at his top level but still easily dispatched Tsitsipas in straight sets 6-3, 7-6, 7-6, equaling Nadal’s 22 total Grand Slams. Despite the dullness of the match, Djokovic was still understandably overcome with emotion after the win, embracing his team and his family before breaking down into tears.

When asked about what the win meant, Djokovic said, “I have to say, this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life considering the circumstances – not playing this year, coming back this year…This is probably the biggest victory in my life, given the circumstances.”

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