12 months after being deported from Australia over his vaccination status, Novak Djokovic reclaimed the tennis throne down under, winning his 10th Australian Open title and returning to number 1 in the ATP world rankings. After struggling with a hamstring injury in the early rounds, the 35-year-old Serb looked increasingly dominant as the tournament progressed. Having dropped just one set on route to the final, Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6:3 7:6 7:6 in the final on Sunday, after which the Serb broke down in tears as he celebrated with his family and team.
His 22nd Grand Slam title brings Djokovic level with last year’s Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal in the race for a special place in tennis history books. One year younger and less prone to injury than his Spanish rival, Djokovic looks likely to come out on top in terms of Grand Slam wins – a category where both Nadal and Djokovic only have two women left to beat. With 23 major titles, Serena Williams has the most wins in the so-called Open Era, which began in 1968, when Grand Slam tournaments allowed professional players to compete. Australian Margaret Court has 24 singles Grand Slam titles to her name, but her record dates back to a different era, which is why it is often excluded from the conversation.
Judging by the dominance that Nadal and Djokovic still exude when fully fit, it looks very likely that at least one of them will continue to beat both Williams’ and Court’s records, an achievement that seemed unthinkable before the “Big Three” entered the tennis circuit. When Pete Sampras retired in 2003, his record of 14 Grand Slam titles looked like one for the ages, but in the end it took just six years for Roger Federer to surpass it. Conversely, Federer already had 12 major titles to his name when Djokovic claimed his maiden Australian Open title in 2008. Back then, hardly anybody would have predicted the Serb to beat pretty much every record there is in the sport. “Of course, I have professional goals and ambitions. Those are Grand Slams and being No.1 in the world,” Djokovic said after his latest triumph. “Those two probably pinnacles of the professional tennis world have always been there as goals for me. So, I do want to make more history of this sport, no doubt."