Stefanos Tsitsipas says the GOAT debate is over after Australian Open final

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Stefanos Tsitsipas declared Novak Djokovic “the greatest to have ever held a tennis racket” after the Serbian won their Australian Open final in straight sets to win a record 10th title in Melbourne.

Djokovic, 35, has now drawn level with Rafael Nadal on 22 grand slam victories, two clear of the retired Roger Federer, and seems as dominant as ever on the court despite his advancing years.

“Novak, I don’t know what to say, the numbers say it all,” Tsitipas said, speaking on court after the match. “It’s been an unbelievable journey for you and I admire what you have done for our sport.

“He’s one of the greatest in our sport... the greatest to have ever held a tennis racket. I’d like to thank you for pushing our sport so far.”

For Tsitsipas, it was his second grand slam final and his second defeat to Djokovic, having been beaten in a dramatic five-set French Open final in 2021.

“It’s not easy to be here again in the final of a grand slam,” the Greek 24-year-old added. “But thank you to my team, we are getting there.”

Djokovic’s win was the ultimate redemption a year on from his sensational deportation from Australia on the eve of the grand slam due to his lack of Covic-19 vaccination.

That dark episode seemed like ancient history on Sunday as he soaked up the cheers from his army of Serbian supporters. Despite saying repeatedly he bore no grudges over his deportation, Djokovic left none in doubt that the events of last year would be fuel for his success.

He has had plenty of other spurs at this tournament, with heckling fans, snide commentary about the severity of his hamstring injury and calls for his father Srdjan to be barred from Melbourne Park for mixing with Putin supporters bearing banned Russian flags.

“I have to say this has been the most challenging tournament I have played in my life,” Djokovic said as he cradled the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup. “Not playing last year, coming back this year. This is probably the biggest victory in my life considering the circumstances.

“Over the last few weeks I have experienced everything, from the best to the worst of emotions. Considering the circumstances, what was on the line, coming back to Australia after everything that happened last year, stuff happening off the court that created pressure. I tried to keep it together and it required huge mental energy. I feel a huge release. Now it’s over and I’m going to enjoy it.”