Novak Djokovic warmed up for his Australian Open return by saving a championship point en route to clinching the Adelaide International title with a thrilling victory over American Sebastian Korda.
The Serbian looked in danger of slipping to a surprise defeat before triumphing 6-7 (8) 7-6 (3) 6-4 in a gruelling three hours and nine minutes to extend his winning streak in Australia to 34 matches, dating back to 2019.
Djokovic was deported from the country ahead of the 2022 Australian Open as a risk to public health because of his refusal to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
But the 35-year-old, who received treatment on his left leg during Saturday’s semi-final win against Daniil Medvedev, will be back in Melbourne this month, chasing a 10th title.
He will arrive there brimming with confidence after lifting the 92nd tour-level trophy of his illustrious career at the end of an absorbing encounter.
Djokovic saved match point at 5-6 in the second set and, having dug in to keep himself in contention, surged through the tie-break to force a decider.
The 21-time grand slam champion tapped his right index finger to his head as a nod to his resilience after victory was sealed when 22-year-old Korda sent a final forehand long.
Djokovic is now tied with Rafael Nadal for the fourth-most men’s singles titles in the Open Era, trailing only Jimmy Connors (109), Roger Federer (103) and Ivan Lendl (94).
He thanked the Australian crowd for their support since his return to the country.
“It’s been an amazing week and you guys made it even more special,” Djokovic said during the trophy ceremony, according to atptour.com.
“For me to be standing here is a gift, definitely. I gave it all today and throughout the week in order to be able to get my hands on the trophy.
“The support that I’ve been getting in the past 10 days is something that I don’t think I’ve experienced too many times in my life, so thank you so much (to) everyone for coming out every single match.”
Britain’s Lloyd Glasspool clinched the men’s doubles title alongside Finnish partner Harri Heliovaara thanks to a 6-3 7-6 (3) win over compatriot Jamie Murray and New Zealander Michael Venus.