Novak Djokovic held his index finger to his right ear, enjoyed the cheers of the fans and distributed hand kisses to the audience. Almost a year after his expulsion due to a lack of corona vaccination, the tennis superstar celebrated his 92nd title in Australia and underlined his top form shortly before the start of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.
The 35-year-old Serb won the top-class final in Adelaide against the American Sebastian Korda 6:7 (8:10), 7:6 (7:3), 6:4.
After an exhausting 3:09 hours and a match point that was saved, Djokovic kept tapping his forehead. The message: Thanks to his mental strength, the long-standing number one in the world Down Under is at the height of his skills after the immigration whirlwind of the previous year. And after the cancellation of the Spanish world number one Carlos Alcaraz, he starts as a big favorite at the Australian Open in a week.
"Standing here is a gift," said Djokovic in his winning interview on hard court. "I haven't had that much support in my career that I've received over the last few days. Thanks to everyone who came to my matches. It felt like playing at home." During the title ceremony, loud "Nole, Nole" calls echoed through the arena.
Djokovic is aiming for the 22nd Grand Slam title
"It was an incredible week," Djokovic summed up the preparatory tournament. It is a special return to Australia for him. A year ago he had to leave the country before his first game at the Australian Open due to his lack of vaccination against the corona virus. His visa had previously been canceled and an entry ban of three years imposed. The entry ban has now been lifted by the Australian authorities - the way to a possible Grand Slam title number 22 is clear.
In the second set, Djokovic fended off a match point when the score was 5: 6. With the 92nd title on the ATP tour, he drew level with the Spaniard Rafael Nadal. Only Jimmy Connors (109), Roger Federer (103) and Ivan Lendl (94) celebrated more triumphs in men. At the Australian Open, which begins on January 16, Djokovic could climb to the same level as record holder Nadal after Grand Slam tournament titles.
Djokovic had defeated the Russian favorite Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals in Adelaide. There is a question mark behind Nadal's form, Olympic champion Alexander Zverev is still far from his top condition after returning from a foot operation.