“We created a monster”

His tenth Melbourne title, 22nd Grand Slam and once again tops the world rankings. She made an extraordinary impression on Novak Djokovic. Also because of last year’s affairs. “Of anyone who’s ever picked up a bat, he’s the best.”

Rick Speakenbrink

With a shocking chest and long shots, Novak Djokovic (35) unleashed all the emotions. First in the stands, lying in front of the benches of his coaches and family. Then again on his seat along the track. The cheers of the 15,000 fans couldn’t drown out the cries of the champion. Rarely, perhaps never, has the title stirred so much for Djokovic. Win it all, more than once, but the dump was awesome. “It’s my best win ever, under the current circumstances,” said the tennis player, dressed in a white jacket and with the number “22” on his chest.

He did not elaborate on those circumstances, but they are well known. A year ago, the Serb flew to Australia at the last moment. As an unprotected player, he needed a concession to enter the country. But he didn’t have the right papers. Twice he was arrested in a detention hotel, and twice he came case to court. Djokovic was eventually deported. There was some support, but there were a lot of Australians They lost their sympathy with the Serbswho may have thought different rules would apply to him during a pandemic.

So Djokovic came to Melbourne this year with some reservations. But the welcome was warm. Fans know how special the place is for the tennis player. Here he played many of the best tennis. He managed to win all three editions before last year and this year he was even more keen on the title. It feeds best on the feeling of injustice and revenge.

Every fighting match

Just looking at the results, these two weeks seem to be no problem. In the first three rounds, however, Djokovic had physical complaints, particularly with his upper leg. He fueled doubts. After the quarter-finals, there was an incident with his father, who stood in the garden with fans of Russian President Putin. Djokovic also had to explain and fix that. The seat next to his mother remained empty in the semi-final and final.

I distracted him, but it had no effect on his game. Perhaps Djokovic caught fire even more. Stefanos Tsitsipas couldn’t do much in a dull final, and his weapons were neutralized by Djokovic. At key moments, Tsitsipas also made a lot of mistakes and wrong choices. The Serb won 6-3, 7-6, 7-6.

At first he answered coldly, tapping his index finger on his head, heart and legs. But on the way to the box, primitive man got out in it. “I broke down with my mom and brother. It took a lot of mental energy to stay focused and on track. Every game was a fight, two weeks ago I didn’t give myself a good chance.”

The greatest of all time

But he took revenge. To sweetheart Australia, to the media, to all the critics. “I told you, we made a monster,” Nick Kyrgios tweeted. The numbers don’t lie. With his tenth title in Melbourne, Djokovic has won 22 majors. He’s tied again with Rafael Nadal (36), and the question is whether he still has a chance to win major prizes after another injury. Djokovic is just a year younger than him, but physically less prone to wear.

After a seven-month break, he is also back at the top of the world rankings. “It is a compliment and a privilege to be part of the discussion about the greatest player of all time,” he said. For his opponent in the final Tsitsipas, this is no longer a question: “Of all who picked up a racket, he is the best.”

The tone has been set in Australia, this should be Djokovic’s year. Although there is still some uncertainty, for example about tournaments in the United States. For now, playing Indian Wells in March is not an option for Djokovic, but he’s hoping for that too to be accepted again. However, it is not a top priority for the Serbs. “Of course I will keep trying to win more Grand Slams. That’s why I’m still playing.”

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