Novak Djokovic saved a championship point en route to clinching the Adelaide International title with a thrilling victory over American Sebastian Korda – and now he is closing in on one of the sport’s ultimate records.
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.
“It’s been an amazing week and you guys made it even more special,” said Djokovic.
“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.
“I would like to thank my team for tolerating me in good and bad times. Today, I’m sure they didn’t have such a blast with me going back and forward, but I appreciate them and my brother is here is well. I love you.
“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.”
Djokovic also paid tribute to his opponent Korda as he added: “Amazing tournament, amazing effort today. I’d probably say that you were closer to victory today than I was.
“It was decided in one or two shots, one or two points. Tough luck today, but the future is bright for you, so just keep going, and you’re an amazing player. Well done.”
It was clear that the goodwill from the Australian crowd meant a lot to Djokovic, with uncertainty over how he would be received in the country after he was deported over his Covid vaccine status a year ago.
Yet it’s clear that Djokovic is in good shape ahead of his Australian Open bid, as he eyes up a shot at history by overhauling one an iconic tennis record.
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).
Federer was chasing down Connors’ long-standing record before he was forced to retire last year due to a knee problem and now Djokovic will be eyeing up a shot at overhauling the mark of 109 titles in the next few years.
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