Emotional Djokovic hails biggest victory of his life
Novak Djokovic says his win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in last night's Australian Open final was the "biggest victory" of his career as he won back the hearts of the home fans a year after being deported from the country.
A ruthless Djokovic resumed his reign over Melbourne Park by winning a record-extending 10th Australian Open title and crushing the Grand Slam dream of Greek trailblazer Tsitsipas in a one-sided final.
In a rematch of the 2021 French Open decider, Djokovic swept to a 6-3 7-6(4) 7-6(5) victory at Rod Laver Arena to reclaim the world number one ranking and again deny Tsitsipas a maiden major title.
The atmosphere was electric and the crowd often unruly as Serbian and Greek fans bayed in the terraces as if roaring on football teams.
Djokovic's 22nd Grand Slam triumph, now matching Rafa Nadal, was the ultimate redemption a year on from his sensational deportation from Australia on the eve of the Grand Slam due to his lack of COVID-19 vaccination.
He has had plenty of other spurs at this tournament, with heckling fans, snide commentary about the severity of his hamstring injury and calls for his father Srdjan to be barred from Melbourne Park for mixing with Putin supporters bearing banned Russian flags.
As in the semi-final, there was no Srdjan in the players' box but Djokovic had ample support all around the showcourt.
His victory over Tsitsipas was met with thunderous applause from a packed crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
The 35-year-old cried as he hugged his mum in the supporters box.
"I have to say that this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I have played in my life, considering the circumstances," Djokovic said in his on-court interview.
"Not playing last year, coming back this year. I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome and comfortable to be in Melbourne, Australia.
"I try to pinch myself and really live through these moments and it's a long journey... Only the team and family knows what we have been through in the last four to five weeks. This, probably, is the biggest victory in my life considering the circumstances."
The 24-year-old Tsitsipas was unable to convert the few chances he had as he failed to stop Djokovic.
"Tough luck tonight, great battle. This is definitely not your last Grand Slam, you still have a lot of time, much more than me," Djokovic said.
"I would also like to congratulate your family and your team... You are one of the most professional tennis players that I know on the tour, and one of the most interesting guys."
Tsitsipas, who fell short of becoming the first Greek tennis player to win a Grand Slam, commended Djokovic's contribution to the sport.
"I have had the privilege to play a lot of high intensity matches, but I would like to say one more time that Novak brings the best out of me and these are the matches I have been working my entire life for," Tsitsipas said.
"He is one of the greatest in our sport and I think he is the greatest that has ever held the tennis racket.
"I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far and it deserves a player like you who pushes every single player who is involved in this sport."