WATCH: Nine episodes of Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open love affair as he sets sights on a perfect 10

Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the Australian Open Credit: Alamy
Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the Australian Open Credit: Alamy

Novak Djokovic will be gunning for record-extending 10th Australian Open title come January 2023.

After missing the defence of his crown at Melbourne Park at the start of the 2022 season due to his unvaccinated status, Djokovic will have two targets when he returns in 2023: to extend his record for most Australian Opens and to draw level with Rafael Nadal’s 22 Grand Slams.

Nadal also holds the record for most majors one at one tournament as he won a 15th French Open at Roland Garros in 2022 so Djokovic will have a chance to edge closer to the Spaniard.

Back in 2021 when he won title No 9, Djokovic described it as “a love affair” and he will be looking to write a new episode in 2023.

“It’s a love affair,” he said. “I’ve been feeling more comfortable on the court each year that I’ve been coming back.

“I mean, the more you win, obviously the more confidence you have and the more pleasant you feel on the court. It just feels right.”

Let’s start off with Episode 1 of Novak Djokovic: Australian Open Love Affair

2008 Australian Open

After finishing runner-up to Roger Federer in his first-ever Grand Slam final at the 2007 US Open, Djokovic finally got major No 1 at the Australian Open the following year.

He got his revenge against Federer in the semi-final at Melbourne Park and then defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4–6, 6–4, 6–3, 7–6 (7–2) in the final for his maiden Grand Slam.

“I’m very, very happy that I won my first Grand Slam here,” Djokovic said after his win.

“I want to thank all the Serbian fans who came here to support me – I am so proud to be the first Serbian to win a Grand Slam title.”

2011 Australian Open

It would take Djokovic another three years to not only win a second Australian Open title, but also a second Grand Slam and again it came on the back of losing a US Open final – this time to Rafael Nadal.

He took out Swiss duo Stan Wawrinka and Federer en route to reaching the final before demolishing Andy Murray 6–4, 6–2, 6–3 in the showpiece match.

“Certainly this will give me a lot of motivation for the continuation of the season, because to win a Grand Slam at the start of the season is the best start you can ask for,” Djokovic said. “It means a world to me. I’m still 23. I still have a lot of time to go.”

He still had plenty of time…

2012 Australian Open

He returned to the final the following year and successfully defended his title in one of the all-time Grand Slam final classics as he defeated Rafael Nadal 5–7, 6–4, 6–2, 6–7 (5–7), 7–5 in a clash that lasted five hours and 53 minutes – the longest match in duration in Australian Open history.

Djokovic infamously ripped his shirt off after winning the title and both players were so tired that they required chairs to sit on during the post-match ceremony.

“We made history tonight,” he told Nadal.

“You are one of the best players ever. I hope we have many more matches like this and many more finals.”

The Serbian added: “It was obvious on the court for everybody who has watched the match that both of us, physically, we took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies.

2013 Australian Open

Three titles became four the following year as Murray again was the beaten finalist – this time going down 6–7 (2–7), 7–6 (7–3), 6–3, 6–2 in three hours and 40 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

It was Djokovic’s sixth Grand Slam title and he also became the first man to win three titles in a row at Melbourne Park in 46 years.

The match of the tournament came in the fourth round as Djokovic beat Stan Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 12-10 in five hours and three minutes.

No surprise then that he described it as his “favourite” major.

“What a joy, to win this title again. … It’s my favourite Grand Sam, my most successful Grand Slam, I love this court,” he said.

2015 Australian Open

After only reaching the quarter-final in 2014 – losing to eventual champion Wawrinka – Djokovic reclaimed his crown the following year as Murray was once again the man to finish runner-up.

He exacted revenge over Wawrinka in the semi-final before beating Murray 7–6 (7–5), 6–7 (4–7), 6–3, 6–0 in the final.

“I’m honoured to be standing here as a champion for a fifth time,” the champion said.

2016 Australian Open

Djokovic drew level with the great Roy Emersen on six Australian Open titles in 2016 as once again Murray felt the Serbian’s full wrath at Melbourne Park.

This time it was fairly straightforward as the top seed won 6–1, 7–5, 7–6(7–3) to move to 11 Grand Slam titles.

“Every Grand Slam title is very significant in its own way,” said Djokovic. “Here, because of the fact that I managed to make history tonight and equal Roy Emerson’s six Australian Open titles. I’m very honoured to be mentioned alongside legends of our sport like Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, and to win as many Grand Slams as they did.

“I can’t lie and say I didn’t think about it. Of course it was in the back of my mind. Coming into the court I knew that I had a chance to make history. Of course it served as a great motivation, as a great imperative to play my best.”

2019 Australian Open

After a two-year break, Djokovic returned with a vengeance as he brushed aside Nadal 6–3, 6–2, 6–3 to win a record seventh title at Melbourne Park.

“I’m trying to contemplate on the journey in the past 12 months. I had surgery exactly 12 months ago,” Djokovic said after winning a 15th major.

“To be standing now here, in front of you today, managing to win this title and three of the four Slams is truly amazing.”

Asked if he could surpass Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slams at the time, Djokovic replied: “Of course, it motivates me. How many seasons are to come? I don’t know.

“I do want to focus on continuing to improve my game and maintaining the overall well-being that I have – mental, physical, emotional – so I would be able to compete at such a high level for the years to come, and have a shot at eventually getting closer to Roger’s record.”

2020 Australian Open

The following year he got even closer to Federer’s record as he beat Dominic Thiem 6–4, 4–6, 2–6, 6–3, 6–4 in the final for his eighth title at Melbourne Park and 17th major.

“Probably one point and one shot separated us. Could have gone a different way,” Djokovic said. “I served and volleyed when I was facing a break point in the fourth and in the fifth. It worked both of the times.

“It could have also been different. Serve and volley is not something I’m accustomed to. I’m not really doing that that often. I kind of recognised that as an important tactic in those circumstances, and I’m really happy it worked.”

2021 Australian Open

His ninth and final title came last year when he dominated Daniil Medvedev 7–5, 6–2, 6–2 to move to 18 Grand Slam titles.

“I would like to thank Rod Laver Arena,” he said during the trophy presenation ceremony. “I love you each year more and more. It’s been a love affair that keeps growing. Thank you so much.”

He drew level with Federer and Nadal on 20 Grand Slams when he won Wimbledon later that year.

He was unable to continue the love affair with Melbourne in 2022 as he was deported from Australia after his visa was withdrawn, but it won’t be a surprise if he finishes Episode 10 of Novak Djokovic: Australian Open Love Affair come the end of January 2022.

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