News reporter @Reemul_B
Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open to equal Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam record, a year after he was deported over his COVID vaccination status, reports Sky News.
The Serbian tennis star beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in three sets in the final in Melbourne on Sunday.
The 35-year-old added that it was one of the “most challenging tournaments” he played in especially after “not playing last year.”
His victory comes a year after he was unable to compete in the tournament when he was deported from Australia because he refused to have the COVID vaccine.
In his trophy acceptance speech, he thanked everyone for making him feel welcome.
Djokovic defeated the Greek finalist 6-3, 7-6(4), and 7-6(5) at the Rod Laver Arena.
Tsitsipas also lost to Djokovic at the 2021 French Open.
The Serb broke down in tears as he hugged his family in the stands and even laid down, overwhelmed with emotion.
A breakdown of his 22 major championships include seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open and two from the French Open.
“The greatest that has ever held the tennis racket”
Tsitsipas was gracious in defeat and congratulated his opponent on his record-equalling victory.
The 24-year-old said: “I admire what you have done for the sport. You make me a better player when I am on the court.
Tsitsipas lauded Djokovic as one of the greatest players in the sport.
“Novak brings the best out of me… he is the greatest that has ever held the tennis racket.”
He added: “I’ve had the privilege to play a lot of high-intensity matches. These are the matches I’ve been working my entire life for. I’d like to thank you for pushing our sport so far.”
Don’t let anyone take away the dream
Djokovic welcomed the Greek’s kind words.
“This is definitely not your last Grand Slam. You definitely have more time. Much more than me,” he said to Tsitsipas.
He spoke about Greece and Serbia being relatively small countries “without a tennis tradition and no players to look up to.”
But his message for young tennis players was to “dream big.”
“Dare to dream. Everything is possible. Don’t let anybody take away the dream.
Djokovic told young players to ‘dream big.’
“It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from. The more difficulties you have the stronger you become – Stefanos and I are proof of that.”
Djokovic’s first Australian Open win came in 2008, the next in 2011.
He’s missed out on winning only four times since, with Stan Wawrinka, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal filling in the gaps.