Novak Djokovic points an angry index finger at his temple before raising it to the sky, in a prayer, his usual ritual after each victory. Then, when joining his clan in the stands of the Rod Laver Arena, he collapses, literally and figuratively, overtaken by an uncontrollable emotion that he had never let overflow to this point, not even after his first Grand Slam title in this same setting, fifteen years ago.
The scene speaks volumes about the pressure that consumed the Serb for a fortnight in Melbourne before winning his 10e title at the Australian Open, Sunday January 29, after a one-sided final against the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas (6-3, 7-6, 7-6).
“It was one of the toughest tournaments of my career. Not playing last year, coming back this year… Only my team knows what we’ve been through in recent weeks. This is perhaps the biggest victory of my career,” broke out on the 5the worldwide after receiving his 22e Grand Slam trophy from the hands of Ken Rosewall, under the eyes of another Australian legend, Rod Laver.
A year ago, the “master of the place”, not vaccinated against Covid-19, had been deprived of his favorite tournament. The images of the hero of Serbia arrested by the border police, detained for several days, then finally kicked like an outcast out of the country after seeing his fate sealed by the Australian Federal Court, had fueled a planetary soap opera. Twelve months later, Djokovic did not change his mind about vaccination, but he was allowed to enter the country.
Tied with Nadal before Roland-Garros
From then on, the deposed king had a double mission in mind: to recover his crown in Melbourne and to come back up to his Spanish rival Rafael Nadal in the race for the record of Grand Slam victories (22). “Of course, it’s for this record that I continue to play, I want to be the best in the world and win the biggest tournaments, it’s no secret. It’s also one of the reasons I wanted to come back to Melbourne.”he justified on his arrival.
The redemption operation is total for the soon to be 36-year-old player. As a bonus, he recovers his throne of world number 1, which Tsitsipas could claim in the event of victory.
The two men met in the final of a Grand Slam almost two years after that of Roland-Garros 2021, won by the Serb. Led two sets to zero, the Belgradois returned transformed after a long toilet break between the second and third set which had caused a stir.
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