Confident Djokovic primed for Tsitsipas in Australian Open final
published : 29 Jan 2023 at 04:45
MELBOURNE - Novak Djokovic will be strong favourite to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open final on Sunday and equal Rafael Nadal's haul of 22 Grand Slam crowns.
The 35-year-old Serb, who has won all nine of his previous finals at Melbourne Park, will return to world number one if he defeats the Greek third set.
But Tsitsipas, who lost to Djokovic in his only previous major final, at the French Open in 2021, will himself top the rankings for the first time if he can pull off an upset.
"Winning Grand Slams and being the number one in the world are probably the two biggest peaks that you can climb as a professional tennis player," said Djokovic.
The fourth seed, who missed last year's Australian Open when he was deported over his Covid vaccination stance, believes that his far superior experience at this stage of the tournament gives him a significant edge.
"I think that the experience of being in this particular situation and circumstances before helps," he said.
"I think also the fact that I never lost the Australian Open final definitely serves as a great confidence-booster prior to Sunday."
Tsitsipas will have something to say about that as he pursues a first Grand Slam crown.
The 24-year-old believes he has matured as a player and a person and is now better suited to the big stage in his quest to become the first Greek player to win a major title.
"I couldn't be more ready for this moment," said Tsitsipas, the youngest man to reach the Melbourne final since a 23-year-old Djokovic in 2011.
"This is a very humbling opportunity for me, being in the finals here means a lot.
"Having started here as one of my first junior Grand Slams and being now in the finals of the men's event is as important as my very first steps that I took on the tennis court.
"I'm going to grasp this opportunity."
Djokovic may be strong favourite given his vast experience and success on the Melbourne hardcourts, and he also holds a 10-2 career record over Tsitsipas.
But he has been struggling with a hamstring injury and off-court distractions after his father sparked a scandal when he was pictured posing next to a fan with a Russian flag featuring the face of Vladimir Putin.
Tsitsipas said he was ready to cause an upset.
"I'm playing great tennis. I'm enjoying myself. I just see no downside or negativity in what I'm trying to do out there," he said.
"I genuinely believe in what I'm able to produce. That is more than enough."
Both players are unbeaten this season, so something will need to give.