Tearful Novak Djokovic hails ‘biggest victory’ of his life in Australian Open

<span>Photograph: James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock

A tearful Novak Djokovic described his Australian Open triumph as the biggest and most challenging victory of his career after he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) to win his record-extended 10th title in Melbourne.

“Only my team and family know what we have been through these past four or five weeks,” Djokovic said. “This is probably the biggest victory in my life considering the circumstances.”

A year since being deported from Australia after attempting to enter the country with an exemption from Covid vaccination, the 35-year-old returned to win this title. Despite dealing with a hamstring issue since the start of the tournament, Djokovic dropped just one set in his seven matches. After the final, Djokovic broke down in tears while embracing his team in his player box.

Related: Novak Djokovic sinks Stefanos Tsitsipas to claim his 10th Australian Open title

“When I went into my box, I just emotionally collapsed there and teared up, especially with my mother and my brother when I gave them a hug. Because up to that moment I was not allowing myself to be distracted with things off the court or whatever was happening in dealing with an injury; things that could easily have been a big disturbance to my focus, to my game.”

Djokovic’s tally of 22 grand slam titles moves him level with Rafael Nadal as the joint men’s all-time grand slam record holder. He also returns to world No 1 for the first time since June, replacing US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz.

While Djokovic admitted that the scrutiny and scepticism around his hamstring injury affected him during the tournament, Goran Ivanisevic, his coach, believes that most players would not have competed with the injury he had.

Ivanisevic said that “97% of the players, on Saturday when you get results of the MRI, you go straight to the referee office and pull out of the tournament. But not him. He is from other space. His brain is working different.”

Djokovic’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, did not return to watch his son on court after Djokovic and his team decided that media attention had not sufficiently died down in the wake of Srdjan taking a picture with pro-Vladimir Putin spectators.

Srdjan Djokovic was still on site, and he embraced his son by the player locker room after the match, but Djokovic said that his father was sad about not being able to watch.

“In a way I’m also sad that he was not there, present, in the stands. But he was throughout the entire tournament, so it’s fine. In the end we have a happy ending,” Djokovic said.