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How the 2015 Australian Open may have an impact on the season of some of the top stars

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TENNIS – The 2015 Australian Open crowned Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams after two weeks of exciting tennis, upsets and memorable matches at Melbourne Park. Djokovic won his fifth Australian Open title and his eighth overall win in a Major equalling Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and André Agassi. Williams has become the second best player in history with 19 Majors behind Steffi Graf. The Australian Open may have an impact on the season of some of the top stars. Diego Sampaolo

 

Novak Djokovic confirmed his status as the King of Melbourne winning this title for the fifth time. Melbourne Park is becoming the backyard of Djokovic in the same way as the Roland Garros for Nadal and Wimbledon’s All England Club for Federer.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic’s next goal will be to win the Roland Garros for the first time in his career and complete the Career Grand Slam with the only Trophy missing from his cabinet. A triumph in the French capital could raise his hopes to complete the calendar year-Grand Slam.This is a hard but not impossible goal for Nole who came close to this achievement in 2011 when he triumphed in the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open losing an epic semifinal against Federer

Only Don Budge, the first player to win the four singles Majors in the same year was Don Budge in 1938, and Rod Laver, who accomplished this feat in 1962 and 1969, accomplished this feat in the history of men’s tennis. Three women won the four Slams in the same year: Maureen Connolly (1963), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (who achieved the Golden Grand Slam with the Olympic Gold in Seul 1988). This is enough to say how tough the achievement is for Djokovic especially in modern tennis.

The First Grand Slam of the year also produced some major changes to the ATP Ranking. These changes could have a major impact on future seeds and draws for the next tournaments. The most significant changes regard two top-10 player Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

Andy Murray and Amelie Mauresmo

Andy Murray and Amelie Mauresmo

The first change to the Ranking is the return of the Fab 4 after the return of Murray to the fourth place behind Djokovic, Federer and Nadal after finishing runner-up to Djokovic in the Australian Open final on Sunday. The Dunblane native, who fell out of the top-4 after losing in the quarter final last year in Melbourne and ended the 2014 season in sixth place in the Ranking after a difficult year marred by injury problems which he managed to rescue thanks to a strong finish to the year in which he collected three titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia. Murray had a strong return to form Down Under with wins against Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios and Tomas Berdych before keeping pace with Djokovic in the first two sets of the final which ended with tie-breaks. Murray broke serve at the start of the second set but from then on he started faltering and dropped 12 out of the last 13 games. Murray will have to improve his game especially after the final in which he hit 41 winners but 49 unforced errors.

Apart from the rise to the fourth place the Australian Open final was an important confidence-booster for Murray for the next months in which he will be bidding to his third Grand Slam title after the 2012 US Open and his triumph at Wimbledon in 2013. He will have to defend important points at the Roland Garros where he reached the semifinal last year. He reached the quarter final last year at Wimbledon and at the US Open where he will have his best chances to lift another Grand Slam Trophy.

Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka

Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka

The other major impact on the Ranking regards Stan Wawrinka who reached the semifinal Down Under after another solid tournament in which he beat Kei Nishikori in the quarter final but he could not defend his title points this year and dropped five places to Number 9 in the ATP Ranking after losing the semifinal against eventual champion Nole Djokovic. This means that he will face the risk to meet tough rivals in early rounds of the next Master 1000 Tournaments. He will also have to defend the title points in Monte-Carlo, although early exits last year in Madrid, Rome and the Roland Garros mean that he will have the chance to collect a lot of points since May.

The other major impact on the Rankings was produced by young Aussie Rising star Nick Kyrgios who rose to a career high Number 35 after reaching his second Grand Slam quarter final after last year’s Wimbledon. He has become the first teenager to reach two Grand Slam quarter final since Roger Federer in 2001

Kyrgios, who beat Federer’s conqueror Andreas Seppi before losing to Murray in the quarter final, has the potential to become the next star of the circuit and the great achievement in the Happy Slam could raise his confidence ahead of Wimbledon where he will try to improve his result of last year.

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov reached at least the semifinal stage in Grand Slam tournaments in 2014 and are expected to follow in the footsteps of Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic as first-time Grand Slam champions in 2015. These three stars were not ready to lift their first Major Trophy in Melbourne but upsets are behind the corner especially at Grand Slam level. Among the reasons, which explain how the challenge faced by Raonic, Nishikori and Dimitrov is, there are the return to the top of Andy Murray, and the consistent tournament of Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych.

Raonic has moved up to his career high position of World Number 6 after reaching the quarter final for the first time at the Australian Open. However, the young Canadian showed that he cannot rely only on his big serve if he wants to have a serious chance to beat the Fab 4 in Grand Slams, as it happened in the Melbourne quarter final match where his best weapon was not enough to prevail against Djokovic.

Raonic, who will have to defend his semifinal points at Wimbledon after reaching this stage of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career, is just 360 points behind fifth ranked Kei Nishikori, who reached the quarter final in Melbourne.

The Japanese player, Grand Slam finalist for the first time last September at the US Open, beat David Ferrer but lost against Wawrinka who played his best match of the tournament in the quarter final against the Japanese player. By reaching the quarter final Nishikori equalled the same result achieved in 2012. The player coached by Michael Chang won just six of his 25 head-to-head matches against the top-10 but prevailed only twice in Grand Slams against Wawrinka in the quarter final and Djokovic in the semifinal at the 2014 US Open.

In comparison to Nishikori, Raonic won just five of his 27 head-to-head matches against top-10 players but has a 4-2 win-loss record against Murray. The Canadian has the potential to reach again the semifinal in Grand Slam tournaments in the near future.

Dimitrov reached the semifinal at Wimbledon last year but in the other Slams he was quarter finalist only at the Australian Open in 2013 and 2015. This year he faced a very tough task when he was beaten by Murray who was looking to take a re-match after losing last year at Wimbledon. Dimitrov won just four of 19 head-to head matches against the top-10 but has the talent to equal the semifinal achieved last year at Wimbledon.

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych performed well at the start of this year reaching the final in Doha and the semifinal in Melbourne. His Australian Open campaign was highlighted by his win over Rafa Nadal in the quarter final where the Czech player broke his 17-match losing streak against his Spanish rival. His run ended with the defeat against Murray in the semifinal but he showed consistency during the tournament reaching the semifinal for the second consecutive year. Much credit goes to his new coach Dani Vallverdu. Reaching the second Grand Slam final after Wimbledon in 2010 could be a realistic goal for Berdych in the next tournaments if he keeps the consistency.

Roger Federer suffered a major disappointment as he was knocked out by Andreas Seppi in the third round but he has still the chance to bounce back and add another Grand Slam to his impressive collection especially in his favourite Slam at Wimbledon where he won seven times and played a epic final against Djokovic. Winning the 18th Slam title could be the major goal for the final part of his legendary career- It remains to be seen how the Swiss Maestro will plan the rest of the season after the Australian Open especially in spring, if he will drop some tournaments from his calendar and if he plays in the Davis Cup first round against Belgium next March.

Rafa Nadal showed once again his ability to win very hard battles but he is vulnerable to injuries which are taking a heavy toll on his career. He will chase a lot of titles on his favourite clay surface next spring in the tournaments, where he did not perform at the same level as in the past years, before defending his title points at the Roland Garros. After Paris he will not have much to defend for the rest of the year, because he played sparingly in the second half of 2014 because of injury and physical problems.

Women:

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Serena Williams celebrated her 19th title to move up into second place in the all-time list of winners of Grand Slam titles behind Steffi Graf who won 22 Major titles. Williams can dream to win more Grand Slam crowns and close the gap on the German legend if she keeps her form.

Serena has been at the top of the Ranking for a total of 226 weeks and is closing the gap on Chris Evert who was first for 260 weeks and is still ranked third in the all-time ranking of players who stayed at the top for more weeks behind Steffi Graf (377 weeks) and Martina Navratilova (332 weeks).

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

Runner-up Maria Sharapova lost her 17th consecutive match since 2004 against Serena but she fought hard in the second set and can look to the next tournaments with a renewed confidence especially during the spring clay season where she will have to defend the title points in Madrid, Stuttgart and the Roland Garros. Maria, who started her season with a title in Brisbane against Ana Ivanovic, showed once again the ability to fight hard until the end especially when she saved two match points against Alexandra Panova in the second round. Last year she won a hard final match against Simona Halep in Paris and she will certainly take advantage of this ability to fight hard until the last point in long and tough matches during the European clay season.

Sharapova has learned to move effectively on the clay surface, which was considered as one of her worst surface. She won two of her six Grand Slam titles in 2012 and 2014 in Paris and finished runner-up in 2013.

Madison Keys

Madison Keys

The major surprise of this year’s Australian Open Madison Keys could produce a major impact in the circuit after reaching the semifinals. The US teenager has reached the top-20 for the first time in his career after starting the tournament in 35th place in the WTA Ranking and is the youngest player in the top-20. Keys upset her childhood idol Venus Williams in the quarter final before losing against Serena in the semifinals. If Keys keeps this level, she could reach have the potential to reach the top-10 in the coming months and become the new star of the future. Keys could follow in the footsteps of Eugenie Bouchard, who start the 2014 season with a semifinal in Melbourne and went on to reach another Grand Slam semifinal at the Roland Garros before qualifying for the final at Wimbledon. The young Canadian did not confirm the semifinal of last year but she played a good tournament losing to Sharapova in the quarter final.

The other semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova confirmed her excellent level on the Grand Slam stage reaching her second consecutive semifinal after the US Open. She also reached the quarter final at Wimbledon last year. The Russian player crushed Simona Halep 6-4 6-0 in the quarter final before losing to Sharapova in the semifinal showing her potential to raise her game on the bigger stage. Thanks to her consistency Makarova has moved up to ninth place in the WTA Ranking and has the potential to reach her first Major final in the coming three tournaments.

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

Serena’s older sister Venus made a surprising start to her season winning in Auckland and reaching the quarter final in Melbourne. Venus beat Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the quarter final in a Grand Slam for the first time since 2010. She was beaten by Madison Keys in a clash between two different generations. Venus moved up seven position from 18th to 11th place in the WTA Ranking and cannot be written off in the coming tournaments if she is fit. Considering her illness which affected her in her recent years it’s a great achievement for the US legend.

Two players who suffered defeats in the early rounds were Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova but they faced tough players. Wozniacki lost to Vika Azarenka in the second round, while Kvitova was knocked out by Keys in the third round. Both players will have the chance to bounce back in the coming months. Last year they also did not start well but they raised their level in the second half of the season. Kvitova lost in the first round in Melbourne in 2014 but she finished strongly winning her second title at Wimbledon, New Haven and Wuhan. Wozniacki lost in the third round in Melbourne and fell in the first round in Paris but she enjoyed a second half winning a title at Istanbul and reaching the final at the US Open and Tokyo and the semifinal in Eastbourne, Cincinnati, Wuhan and in the WTA Championships in Singapore.

Cictoria Azarenka

Cictoria Azarenka

Vika Azarenka made a successful come-back with her her spectacular second round win over Wozniacki after starting the tournament as unseeded in 44th place in the WTA Ranking. She dropped to World Number 49, but her win over Wozniacki could be a confidence-booster for Azarenka who will try to improve her ranking in the coming tournaments.

Halep could not handle the pressure of high expectations and faltered in the second set against Makarova losing with a bagel. The young Romanian will have to defend a lot of points during the spring clay season where she will try to defend the final reached last year in Paris.

Agnieszka Radwanska was beaten by Venus Williams and dropped to eighth place, her lowest ranking since 2012.

Last year’s Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova lost eight positions in the Ranking dropping to 18th but she showed encouraging progress reaching the quarter final in her favourite tournament.

Italian Camila Giorgi enjoyed a solid tournament reaching the third round where she came close to upsetting Venus Williams. She improved her ranking by two positions to Number 31.

Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic

The major disappointment of this year’s tournament Down Under was Ana Ivanovic who did not advance the first round. The Serbian enjoyed a consistent 2014 season winning four titles in Auckland, Monterrey, Birmingham and Tokyo but reached her only Grand Slam quarter final in the Australian Open. She will have to raise her game if she wants to improve her record in Grand Slam tournaments. She will have to defend her final points of last year in Stuttgart and the semifinal points in Rome.

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Steve Flink: The Story Of Novak Djokovic’s Emotional Australian Open Triumph

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Sports fans who have followed the trajectory of Novak Djokovic’s stellar career with never-ending fascination and frequent astonishment were provided with a rare glimpse inside the 35-year-old’s psyche after the charismatic Serbian took his tenth Australian Open title and a record-tying 22nd major crown in the process, rising once more to the familiar territory of No. 1 in the world. Djokovic defeated an unwavering Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) in a hard fought and well played final, and then climbed into the stands to greet his entourage, hugging his mother, brother and others in his box for longer than usual because his latest landmark triumph was among the most gratifying victories he has ever secured.

 

As Djokovic said in the presentation ceremony under the Melbourne skyline, “I have to say that this has been one of the most challenging tournaments that I have ever played in my life, considering the circumstances, not playing last year, and coming back this year. I want to thank all of the people that made me feel welcome and made me feel comfortable to be in Melbourne and to be in Australia. There is a reason why I have played my best tennis throughout my career in Australia and on this court. Only my team and family knows what we have been through the last four or five weeks and this probably I would say is the biggest victory in my life.”

He was referring, of course, to being barred from competing in Melbourne a year ago because he is unvaccinated. But that was only a part of what he was talking about. On an even larger scale, Djokovic was alluding to the hamstring injury he suffered during a semifinal triumph over Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals of the ATP Tour event in Adelaide, which he won the following day from match point down against Sebastian Korda.

That injury hampered Djokovic considerably in his preparation for the Australian Open, restricting his practice sessions significantly, leading to increasing doubts about his fitness and viability as the man many considered the overwhelming favorite to take the title “Down Under”. Djokovic would later explain that he had deep concerns about participating at all.

All through the first three rounds, his off and on pain was unmistakable. He was not troubled terribly in the first round but despite a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 scoreline against Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena his alacrity around the court was clearly subpar. Nonetheless, Djokovic cast aside the world No. 75 easily. But his next two matches were unpleasant experiences for the No. 4 seed.

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He beat qualifier Enzo Couacaud of France 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-0 in the second round but required medical timeouts as his ailing leg was a cause for consternation. That was the only set he dropped over the fortnight, and Djokovic, even though he pulled away inexorably in the end, was not a happy camper. He was burdened again when he took on the No. 27 seed Grigor Dimitrov, an Australian Open semifinalist six years ago.

Although Dimitrov had defeated Djokovic only once in ten previous clashes, he played inspired tennis this time around before Djokovic emerged with a 7-6 (7), 6-3, 6-4 triumph, but not before saving three set points in the critical opening set. He then took a medical timeout to ease his hamstring pain. Leading by two breaks in the third set, Djokovic, very worried about his injury, took another medical timeout.

But the turning point in his crusade to recapture the crown he had worn nine times before was a fourth round appointment against the industrious Alex De Minaur. Djokovic had never played the No. 22 seed prior to that evening, but for the first time in the tournament he was covering the court with characteristic force and speed. He took the Australian apart comprehensively 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 with a scintillating display of his court craft and strategic acumen.

Now at long last the essential Djokovic came to the forefront. As he mentioned afterwards, not until he devoured De Minaur did the Serbian believe he had what it took physically to win the tournament. Confronting Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals, Djokovic was in similarly sparkling form, obliterating the No. 5 seed 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Rublev had prevailed in the match of the tournament over the No. 9 seed Holger Rune of Denmark in the round of 16. 

Trailing 2-5 in the fifth set of that confrontation, Rublev made it back to 5-5. Behind again at 5-6, he held on from 15-40, erasing two match points. And then, astoundingly, Rublev rescued himself one last time from 0-5 in the conclusive tie-break to win that sequence 11-9. It was the mightiest comeback of Rublev’s career as he came through 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (9). He was euphoric following that win. But seldom has the No. 5 seed looked more forlorn after a loss as he did against a top of the line Djokovic, who took him apart systemically. That set the stage for Djokovic to meet Tommy Paul in a semifinal appointment.

The American had reached the penultimate round for the first time at a major tournament, which assured him of a place among the top 20 in the world. Djokovic was in a commanding position at 5-1, 40-30 in the opening set, only to send a forehand down the line into the net on set point. Improbably, Paul rallied to 5-5. But Djokovic recovered his confidence, taking 14 of the last 17 games to topple Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2. Paul had accounted for the popular left-handed American Ben Shelton, who was playing outside of the United States for the first time. In their quarterfinal, Paul was the victor in four sets.

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Meanwhile, in the top half of the draw, another American was making inroads. Korda—fresh from his stirring final round performance against Djokovic in Adelaide when the Serbian put away an overhead emphatically at match point down— kept moving onwards and upwards in Melbourne. He stunned the No. 7 seed Medvedev 7-6 (7), 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the third round. The Russian was runner-up to Djokovic in 2021 and Nadal a year ago, but he had no answers for the smooth craftsmanship of the young American. Not resting on his laurels, the No. 29 seed Korda knocked out No. 10 seed Hubert Hurkacz in a spellbinding contest that went the distance. In the fifth set tie-break, Korda battled back to win six points in a row from 1-3 to take a 7-3 lead. Hurkacz then collected four points in a row to make it 7-7, but a composed Korda took three in a row from there to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7).

Korda thus moved on to the quarterfinals but injured his wrist midway through a disappointing loss to Karen Khachanov. The Russian prevailed 7-6 (5), 6-3, 3-0 retired. But, predictably, Khachanov was beaten by a tougher and more disciplined Tsitsipas in a four set semifinal.

And so it all came down to Djokovic versus Tsitsipas for the first major title of 2023. Unbeknownst to many casual fans, Tsitsipas was victorious in two of the first three matches he played against Djokovic back in 2018 and 2019, achieving both of his wins on hard courts. But since then, Djokovic had won nine in a row over the Greek stylist, including their only previous Grand Slam final at Roland Garros in 2021 when the Serbian recovered from two sets down to prevail in five sets.

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They had met four times last year between May and November, including two final round duels. All of those matches were hotly contested, but each and every time Djokovic declared himself the better player on the biggest points. The most striking example was their semifinal at the Masters 1000 indoor event in Paris. Tsitsipas was serving with a 4-3 lead in the tie-break before a perspicacious Djokovic collected four points in a row for the win.

In this appointment, the consequences for both players were immense. Djokovic knew he could tie Rafael Nadal for the most men’s major titles at 22. He realized he could return to the summit of the sport and reside once more at No. 1. He understood that, even if he is a very young 35, opportunities at this stage of his career must be seized, and so that gave him an even larger sense of urgency. As for Tsitsipas, he had been waiting for a long time to get a chance like this. After a shocking first round loss at the U.S. Open last summer, he played high level tennis across the autumn and at the start of this season in the United Cup. He sorely wanted a first major. He was on a quest to establish himself as the first Greek singles victor at a Grand Slam championship.

Although he was less dominant than Djokovic in Melbourne, the fact remains that Tsitsipas dropped only three sets in six matches en route to the title round contest. Jannik Sinner took Tsitsipas to five sets in the round of 16, but was ultimately outplayed by the persistent No. 3 seed, who fended off 22 of 26 break points. 

This is a man who has often been outstanding on the hard courts “Down Under”. He reached the semifinals in 2019, striking down Roger Federer along the way before losing to Rafael Nadal. Two years later, he brought down Nadal after being behind two sets to love, bowing in the semifinals again— this time against Medvedev. And last year Tsitsipas was ushered out of the tournament once more by Medvedev in the semis.

He was delighted to reach his first Australian Open final this time around, and seemingly confident about his chances. But while Djokovic was primed from the outset and ready to release his finest tennis, Tsitsipas was initially apprehensive. In the crucial opening set, Djokovic was serving magnificently, hitting all of his spots, finding the corners regularly, keeping his adversary off guard.

Djokovic won 20 of 25 points on his delivery in the first set and was not even pushed to deuce in his five service games. Tsitsipas, meanwhile, was struggling early on. He escaped from 15-40 in the second game but was broken the next time when he double faulted long on break point. Djokovic moved ahead 3-1 and never looked back. Serving for the set at 5-3, Djokovic missed only one first serve. At 30-15, he went to a heavy kicker on the first serve to elicit an errant backhand return, and then on the following point produced an impeccable slice serve wide in the deuce court that Tsitsipas could not handle. That wide serve was tremendously effective all match long for the Serbian.

The second set was well played on both sides of the net. There were no breaks but good opportunities for both players. At 3-4, Djokovic held on from 15-30 but Tsitsipas sent out two aces on his way to 5-4. In the pivotal tenth game of the set, Tsitsipas reached break point for the first time in the match. Djokovic was in a perilous position at 4-5, 30-40, set point down. Tsitsipas thus found himself one point away from evening the match at one set all. The two competitors had a 15 stoke exchange that Djokovic concluded with a forehand inside in winner struck with plenty of margin for error. Tsitsipas was cautious during that backcourt exchange, but Djokovic unhesitatingly seized the initiative.

Djokovic held on for 5-5. Soon they moved to a tie-break. Djokovic served with a 4-1 lead but tightened up flagrantly, netting a two-hander off a looped shot from Tsitsipas and double faulting into the net. A body serve to the forehand from Tsitsipas provoked an error from Djokovic to make it 4-4. Tsitsipas  then erred off the forehand. Forehand to forehand, Djokovic was the better man in this match, and backhand to backhand it was the same story.

Djokovic picked on the Tsitsipas backhand to win the next point, and sealed the tie-break 7-4 with another excellent slice serve wide drawing a netted forehand return. It was two sets to love for the 35-year-old.

Surprisingly, Djokovic opened the third set after a bathroom break with a loose game on serve. He suffered his only lost service game of the match, opening with a double fault and getting broken on an errant backhand approach. But he broke right back to prevent Tsitsipas from building any momentum. The rest of that set, Djokovic was unstoppable on serve again. In his last five service games he conceded only two points, concluding the set with four love games in a row on his delivery. Tsitsipas did not hold as comfortably, but he, too, was unflagging. 

On to another tie-break went the two gladiators. As was the case in the second set, Djokovic took a commanding lead. This time he was ahead 5-0 but on the following point a fan screamed out just before Djokovic made contact with a backhand, and the favorite was distracted into a mistake. Tsitsipas closed the gap to 5-3 but Djokovic opened up the court for a clean winner down the line off the forehand.

That placement gave Djokovic triple match point, but Tsitsipas fought off two of them on his own serve. Serving at 6-5, Djokovic made the third match point count, sending a forehand inside-in to provoke an error from the 24-year-old Greek competitor. In two hours and 56 minutes, Djokovic had raised his record in Australian Open finals to a stellar 10-0. It was demonstrable in Melbourne that Djokovic’s serve is better than ever; he was broken only six times in seven matches and his pace and precision were exemplary. Moreover, he is hitting the forehand harder than ever, but making very few errors off that side. His court awareness and tactical acuity are at an all time high. He has reached a new level of excellence as a match player.

It was in Melbourne 15 years ago that Djokovic garnered his first Grand Slam title. He demonstrated his prowess as a big occasion player in the process. But, as the years passed, he lost some very consequential matches. In fact, after a four set setback against Nadal in the 2014 Roland Garros final, Djokovic had a 6-7 record in Grand Slam tournament finals. Since then, however, he has been stupendous, capturing 16 of his last 20 title meetings at the majors. He now stands at 22-11 for his career.

Djokovic has been nothing less than magnificent since winning his seventh Wimbledon last July. He has won six of his last seven tournaments (including two majors and the prestigious ATP Finals) since that time, and 38 of 40 matches. Only Felix Auger-Aliassime at Laver Cup and Holger Rune in Paris has beaten the best player in the world during this remarkable span.

As he emphasized in Melbourne, Djokovic is taking nothing for granted. He wants to make the most of the next couple of years and exploit each and every opening he has to win the premier prizes in the sport. He should be able to compete in all three remaining Grand Slam tournaments later this year. It would not surprise me in the least if he wins two of them. He should secure at least one more Grand Slam title this season. It seems entirely possible he will be in the forefront of the game for two or perhaps three more years.

Novak Djokovic came into Melbourne awfully worried about his plight, aggravated by an injury, and pessimistic about his chances. But he leaves with a renewed sense of his superiority and an inner feeling that the rest of 2023 is going to be both productive and exhilarating as he realizes his largest dreams and pursues his wildest ambitions. At 35, he just might be playing the best brand of tennis he has ever put on display for the world.

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Australian Open: Stefanos Tsitsipas Determined To Make Grand Slam Dream Reality After Djokovic Defeat

Stefanos Tsitsipas is still determined to achieve his Grand Slam dream after losing the Australian Open final.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (@CitiOpen - Twitter)

Stefanos Tsitsipas is remaining determined to achieve his Grand Slam dream after he lost in the Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic.

 

Playing his second Grand Slam final, Stefanos Tsitsipas was dominated by Novak Djokovic in a 6-3 7-6(4) 7-6(5) defeat with Djokovic claiming his tenth Australian Open title.

The result won’t downplay Tsitsipas’ impressive start to the season as he will now climb up to world number three when the new rankings are released on Monday.

Even though Tsitsipas’ dream of winning a Grand Slam title may not have been realised in Melbourne, the Greek is more determined than before to make it a reality in the future.

Speaking after the match Tsitsipas said he was happy with the two weeks as he looks to win more trophies in the near future, “Look, I’m not thinking about the match anymore,” Tsitsipas said in his press conference.

“I’m just happy that I’m in another Grand Slam final. Of course, I was dreaming about the trophy, lifting that trophy. I even dreamt it last night in my sleep. The desire is really there. I really, really want it badly.

“But just dreaming about it won’t make it happen. You got to act. You got to do something out there. You got to be present even more and do better. Today I felt like there were moments that I was close, but the tiebreak didn’t really show that both ways. Just bad starts. So I’ll just eliminate it, take the good things, move on from there.

It’s a long season. It’s an exhausting season. I got to be physically ready for the difficult matches that I will have to play this year against the best players in the world.”

It’s clear that Tsitsipas wants to move onto the future where he will look to improve in winning the biggest titles on the tour.

However the new world number three also reflected on the past and how this year’s loss feels in comparison to the one in Paris where he lost from two sets down to Djokovic.

Tsitsipas said the one in Paris was more heart-breaking and has learnt from that experience, “Well, Paris was heartbreaking. I was two sets to love up. I wasn’t really thinking that I was two sets to love up. I mean, I was aware of it, but it didn’t occupy too much of my thought process,” the Greek explained.

“Let’s say I did some technical decisions there that were wrong, which I’m pretty sure I’m not going to repeat again in my career. Just pure stubbornness from my side. I can’t see or feel the same again, because that was a different final from what we had today.

“That was disappointing, for sure. A lot of not-such-nice things happened for me that day, losing my grandmother the day of the final, not knowing about it but finding out later.

“There was something in the air that day that made it feel that there was something odd about that day. I still remember it. I don’t want to remember it because it’s not a nice feeling.”

Motivated by his two losses in Grand Slam finals, Tsitsipas will now look to have the desire and consistency to achieve his world number one goal.

Concluding his press conference Tsitsipas said that he’s not lowering his expectations despite recent results, “I want to max out in what I do in my profession. No. 1 is on my mind. It doesn’t come easy, I know that. I got to work harder to make that happen,” Tsitsipas claimed.

“What I can say is being on the tour for a few years now, I get a lot of different experiences, I get a lot of different things that I’m faced with.

“It’s my time to aim for something like this. I don’t see any reason to be lowering my expectations or my goals. I am born a champion. I can feel it in my blood. I can feel it as a competitive kid that I was when I was young. It’s
something that is within me.

“I want to harvest that, make it bloom, make it even stronger and fonder, work hard towards those goals.”

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ATP

Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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