Preview: Unbeaten Djokovic, Tsitsipas Battle For World No. 1 In Australian Open Final | ATP Tour | Tennis
Novak Djokovic leads Stefanos Tsitsipas 10-2 in the pair's ATP Head2Head series, including nine straight wins entering the Melbourne final.
Final Preview: Djokovic, Tsitsipas Square Off For Australian Open Title, World No. 1
In addition to the Grand Slam glory at stake — Djokovic is playing for a record-tying 22nd men's singles major title, Tsitsipas for his very first — the final will also determine the new No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Djokovic, who has spent a record 373 weeks as World No. 1, is bidding to return to the top spot for the first time since last June. Tsitsipas, in his first Australian Open final, is chasing a historic debut at the pinnacle of the men's game, with the opportunity to become the first Greek to hold the honour.
"These are the moments I've been working hard for. To be able to play finals like this, but finals that have bigger meaning that just a final," Tsitsipas said after his four-set semi-final win against Karen Khachanov. "It's a Grand Slam final, I'm fighting for the No. 1 spot. It's a childhood dream to be capturing the No. 1 spot one day. I'm close. I'm happy that this opportunity comes here in Australia and not somewhere else, because this is a place of significance."
With the sizable Greek and Serbian populations in Melbourne, a raucous atmosphere can be expected in the stands on Sunday. The tennis we've seen from the two competitors this season guarantees there will be fireworks on the court, too. Neither man has lost a match in 2023, with Djokovic 11-0 and Tsitsipas 10-0.
"I was really tight on the court... I was struggling also physically and emotionally," Djokovic said of the late stages in a 7-5 first set, when he surrendered a 5-1 lead before closing it out. "I guess in these kind of particular matches, at the final stages of a Slam, you can expect to have a crisis, one or two or three crises. The less the better. But I did have [one]."
Tsitsipas has also been otherworldly at times during his run, though he lost three sets to Djokovic's one in reaching the title round. Both times he was truly tested, he responded with a champion's resolve.
After Jannik Sinner flipped their fourth-round match on its head, dominating sets three and four after Tsitsipas' blistering start, the Greek leaned on a sublime serving performance to claim the final set in one of the matches of the fortnight, escaping with a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory. When Khachanov saved two match points in the semi-finals to force a fourth set, Tsitsipas again regrouped to seal his second Grand Slam final appearance.
The third seed now has an opportunity to avenge his defeat to Djokovic in the 2021 Roland Garros title match, when the Serbian battled back from two-sets-to-love down to lift the title. It was the first time in Djokovic's career that he managed such a comeback in a Slam final.
"I won that match, so my recollections are very positive," Djokovic said with a smile in an on-court interview following his semi-final win. "It was a really physical, mental, emotional battle. It always is with Stefanos. I respect him a lot; he has improved over the years. I actually think he is one of the most interesting guys off the court, with his interests off the court, his hair style and all. But it's all business on Sunday, for both of us. Let the better player win."
Days earlier, Djokovic momentarily forgot that the pair had met with a major title on the line. Tsitsipas, asked about that oversight in his post-semifinal presser, delivered a deadpan reply: "I don't remember, either."
That Roland Garros win was the fifth of what is now nine straight for Djokovic in the pair's ATP Head2Head, in which he owns a decisive 10-2 advantage. The Serbian has won both of their Grand Slam meetings (their 2020 Paris semi-final also went five sets) and all four of their contests last season, dropping just one set in four matches.
For Tsitsipas to succeed, he must deal Djokovic his first loss in an Australian Open semi-final or final. The Serbian will enter the title match with a 19-0 record in those two rounds in Melbourne, having lifted the trophy in each of his nine previous runs to the last four.