Novak Djokovic faces Stefanos Tsitsipas in Australian Open final with records on the line
It all comes down to this. With history and a place at the top of the world rankings, Novak Djokovic will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open men’s final on Sunday.
The winner will be named the new world number 1; It will be a first for Tsitsipas but a return to the top for Djokovic who has spent a record 373 weeks at the top of the men’s rankings.
But not only is a spot at the top of the standings on the line, both players have individual milestones in the headlights.
For Djokovic, victory on Sunday would be a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, his 22nd overall Grand Slam – tying the men’s record currently held by Rafael Nadal.
A win on Sunday would also overcome many of the talking points over the past two weeks – from his father’s hamstring injury to a demonstration with fans holding Russian flags, voicing his support for Russia.
After his semi-final win over American Tommy Paul, Djokovic explained how he was dealing with the scrutiny, saying he “had to accept it”.
“In my case, I think things are just kind of piling up, for one reason or another,” he told reporters. “It’s not an ideal situation or circumstance when you have to deal with all these external factors that are not really necessary during such an important event.
“But it has been a part of my life. Unfortunately the last few years even more so. I just try to grow from it. I try to be more flexible, more strong. I think with the experience of my routine, I feel that I am strong enough to know what I need to do, when I need to do certain things. I’m able to switch off.”
He added: “But today, one way or another, the information comes to you. When it happens, it’s there, so you just have to find a way to kind of accept it, let it go, don’t allow it to consume your day or your state of mind into something like that. Change what you don’t want, especially before the semifinals or finals of a Grand Slam.
“These are the moments where you’re just like, OK, now it’s about locking in, it’s about creating your own space with your own people, being comfortable, and just focusing on the important things. Have to try.”
On the other side of the net, Tsitsipas will be playing in his second Grand Slam final – Djokovic in his 33rd.
His composure, precision and big hitting have dominated his path to the finals and he is now on the verge of winning his first major title.
The 24-year-old met Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final for revenge, with Djokovic coming from two sets down to beat the Greek.
And with so much on the line in the final, Tsitsipas remembered the days when he looked up to the people in the position he is in now.
“I remember watching (grand slam winners) on TV saying to myself: ‘I want to be there myself one day. I want to recreate that feeling for myself,'” he said of Russia. told reporters after his semi-final victory over Karen Khachanov.
“I knew it was a long way to get there. There are a few steps you need to take to give yourself a chance to compete for something like this.
“But I really believed in it. I believed it so much. First of all, it is your ego that speaks. Do you have it or not, you know? As a child, I was very confident. Thank God I was good in my country.
“Starting from that, I knew if I could get out of my country and be able to compete in other countries, European leagues, European tours, I proved to myself over and over that I was really good. yes I finished as junior number 1. Now I want to do it on the men’s team, in men’s professional tennis.