Novak Djokovic shed tears of joy and relief before hailing his 10th Australian Open title as the “biggest victory in my life”. And he explained the emotions that led to his breakdown in tears and an unusual celebration that at one point saw him point to his private parts.
Twelve months after his deportation from Down Under, the Serbian superstar returned to overcome injury and the furore over his father to equal Rafa Nadal’s record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles in the male GOAT race. And he is also back at world No 1 on Monday for an incredible 374th week.
After taking his second match point when Stefanos Tsitsipas pushed a forehand over the baseline, Djokovic touched his head, his heart and his genitals in defiant celebration. But this ruthless serial winner then showed the strain of the last few weeks by climbing into the stands to embrace his mother Dijana and brother Marko before collapsing to the ground in tears.
The Wimbledon champion, who is now a perfect 10 out of 10 in finals here, then continued to cry into his towel in his chair. Wearing a Lacoste top with the No 22, Djokovic explained: “I teared out because I felt the huge burden just off my back. It was a huge relief.
“With everything we have been through – only my team and family know what we have been through these past weeks – it was a huge release as well. I just was releasing all the emotions that had been stuck because I had to find the strong masculine energy to sustain the pressure of going all the way.
MUST READ: Novak Djokovic left ‘hurt’ after his dad skipped Aus Open final win
Watch every match from Roland-Garros, 28 May – June 11, LIVE and exclusive on discovery+Link and Eurosport
“I just think emotionally collapsed there and because up to that moment I was not allowing myself to be distracted with things happening on and off the court. Not playing last year, coming back to Australia this year.
“Considering last year’s event, I was extra nervous coming into Australia, didn’t know how I was going to be received by the people and also motivated to try to make a mark. I have to say that this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I have ever played in my life.
“This is probably the biggest victory in my life considering the circumstances.” Explaining his three-part victory celebration, he said: “It’s a little code language we have. They understand. It takes big heart, of course a lot of mental strength, and the third thing as well to make it!”
Djokovic set ‘minimum’ Grand Slam target by McEnroe after Aus Open win
Novak Djokovic coach makes retirement call after Aus Open win
Stefanos Tsitsipas labels Djokovic GOAT in touching Aus Open speech
His father Srdjan Djokovic again stayed away during the match after getting caught on camera posing with pro-Putin Russian nationalists in Melbourne Park. “That hurts him and me a lot so it was not easy for him,” said the new champion. Srdjan Djokovic later hugged his son in the player tunnel under the Rod Laver Arena.
The world No 1 also said he would release scans to prove his hamstring strain and revealed: “I highly doubt if it wasn’t a Major I would have kept on playing.” His coach Goran Ivanisevic added: “He is from outer space.” Tsitsipas had a set point at 4-5 in the second set before Djokovic showed his class in both tiebreaks to triumph 6-3 7-6 7-6 in two hours and 56 minutes.
The Greek world No 3 told Djokovic: “He is the greatest that has ever held a tennis racquet for sure.” Djokovic, 35, and Nadal, 36, have now won 16 of the last 19 Grand Slams before resuming battle at the French Open. Nick Kyrgios tweeted: “He (Djokovic) will get to 28 Slams easy.”