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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday January 28, 2023

Djokovic and Tsitsipas

Novak Djokovic will bid for his 22nd major title on Sunday in Melbourne, while Stefanos Tsitsipas bids for his first.

Photo Source: Getty

By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday January 28, 2023

History beckons once again, as Novak Djokovic is poised on the precipice of his 22nd Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne, where he is slated to face surging Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the men’s singles final on Sunday night.

Tennis Express

Join us as we run through some of the key storylines ahead of Sunday’s tilt.

[4] Novak Djokovic v [3] Stefanos Tsitsipas
Head-to-Head: Djokovic leads 9-1

Novak Goes for History Again

To say Novak is going for history would be a ridiculous understatement. Really what Djokovic is attempting to do is rewrite history. At 35 he will bid to tie Rafael Nadal (and Steffi Graf) on on the all-time men’s singles Grand Slam titles list with 22, while winning a record tenth Australian Open title. He could also win his 10th major title since turning 30, which is a record for the men and would tie Serena Williams for the all-time singles record.

There is also the record for consecutive matches won at the Australian Open. Djokovic has broken it already by winning his semifinal with Tommy Paul. He is bidding for his 28th consecutive Australian Open win and his 41st win in succession on Australian soil.

Djokovic, who is 21-11 lifetime in Australian Open finals, is 9-0 in finals at the Australian Open. He is 88-8 lifetime in Melbourne, and we could go on and on listing the achievements and milestones he has created, both at the Australian Open and at the Grand Slams.

But let’s jump into some talk about the final itself…

Djokovic Has Owned Tsitsipas

Djokovic owns a 10-2 record against Tsitsipas, which includes a run of nine consecutive victories over the Greek and a five-set triumph over Tsitsipas in the 2021 Roland-Garros final, which saw Djokovic complete his first comeback from two sets to love down in a Slam final.

In other words, he has taken ownership of the rivalry after losing two of his first three matches to Tsitsipas. The pair have met twice at the majors, both times at Roland-Garros, and both times Djokovic won in five sets.

“I know his game pretty well,” Djokovic said of the Greek on Friday night in Melbourne. “He knows my game well. We played several times on different surfaces. We played in one Grand Slam final, on clay, though, in Roland Garros some years ago.

“I know what's ahead of me, and I'm excited. Fortunately for me at this stage of my career, because of all the achievements, it is always basically every match or every tournament there is always something on the line, particularly when the Grand Slams are played.

“Of course, I'm privileged to be in this position, and I'm hoping for the best.”

It will take a gargantuan effort for Tsitsipas to get over the hurdle against one of the greatest to ever play the sport, but the Greek is playing perhaps as good as he ever has so if there ever was a time…

Are We Seeing Peak Tsitsipas?

Everything about Tsitsipas screams “ready to win a major” at the moment. If only there wasn’t a behemoth on the other side of the ledger, a behemoth who just happens to be overcoming his physical issues and rounding into his most menacing self as the tournament winds down to its final days.

That’s the dilemma that Tsitsipas must face at the moment. His forehand has been on fire in this tournament – he has struck over 100 winners with it – and his serve has been electric. He’s mentally on point and overcoming all the rough patches. When he was tested, as he was in the round of 16 by Jannik Sinner, and in his semifinal with Karen Khachanov, he has passed with flying colors.

But Sunday’s examination will be as tough as it gets. He’ll have to play the best match of his life to win.

Novak is Fit - the Hamstring Shouldn’t be an Issue

Djokovic’s injured left hamstring was the big story of the men’s singles draw during week one, bt the Serb has weathered every challenge and found ways to get through the week without exacerbating the injury. He has worked 24/7 on rehabbing the affected area, chosen not to practice on his off days to continue the healing process, and now looks to be very close to 100 percent fit.

He has made it through six best of five set matches to reach the final, while conserving his energy.

He’ll be ready for a fight, and ready to fight fatigue without doubting the status of the injury. He knows what he is dealing with and is perfectly ready to play this final with abandon. He's out of the injury woods...

What's at Stake?

Besides all the aforementioned Djkovic milestones, the No.1 ranking is on the line in this final. Tsitsipas could become the first Greek to ever hold the ATP's top spot and realize a life-long dream. Djokovic could get back to the top for his seventh stint, and begin his 374th week at the top. That's signficant because he is currently just four weeks behind Steffi Graf (377) for most weeks at No.1 in tennis history.

What Can Tsitsipas do to Disrupt Djokovic?

He’ll have to get his return game going. Tsitsipas has taken a step in the right direction on return of late, especially on the backhand side (which used to be a big liability), but Djokovic is by far the best all-around server that he’ll face in the tournament.

The Greek needs to put pressure on Djokovic’s serve and he will need to score more than two breaks. If he has a bad day returning, and allows Djokovic to prance through holds, the court will be tilted, the pressure of his own service games will become magnified and the match could get out of hand.

Tsitsipas’ hope is to return well, capitalize on opportunities early and often, and make this match feel more like a slog than a cruise for Djokovic.


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