Novak Djokovic: Why is 22-time Grand Slam so hard to beat at the Australian Open after 10th victory? (2023)

There was a moment during the 2023 Australian Open final that gave a glimpse into the challenge – both physical and mental – of facing Novak Djokovic.

After breaking for the first time in the match at the start of the third set, Stefanos Tsitsipas is faced with 30-30 in the next game.


He does everything right; pulls Djokovic across into the tramlines with his shot off the return and then drills a backhand down the line with his next. Looking at a still picture of when Tsitsipas unleashes the shot it seems impossible that Djokovic will retrieve the ball, it looks more likely he won’t even move for it and will watch it fly past for a winner.

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But this is Djokovic. He doesn’t just move for it, he reaches it and returns it, almost doing the splits in an incredible display of flexibility as he lunges for the ball well behind the baseline.

Still the point should be won by Tsitsipas. Djokovic's return lands in the middle of the court for him to put away. But perhaps with the previous shot and Djokovic’s immense retrieving skills in mind Tsitsipas puts a bit more on his forehand, looking to ensure this one doesn’t come back.

It doesn’t come back, but only because Djokovic doesn’t need to chase this shot down: it goes wide.

Tsitsipas admonishes himself, swearing several times in anger as he possibly thinks over what he should have done differently to win the point.

But it’s not just Djokovic’s amazing athleticism and speed that have made him so hard to beat at the Australian Open, where he is now a 10-time champion and has won his last 28 matches in a row. He showed in Melbourne that he is a master in all areas of the game.

(Video) Novak Djokovic's message to his fans after 10th Australian Open victory | Wide World of Sports

Wrecker of gameplans

Tommy Paul gave some of the most informative insight into the enormous challenge of facing Djokovic after their semi-final meeting.

As Paul was routinely beaten in straight sets there were questions about why he didn’t try something different, why didn’t he get into the net more and look to get on the front foot, instead of taking on the seemingly impossible task of beating Djokovic from the baseline?

Turns out it’s not that simple.

“I wanted to serve and volley some. I didn’t serve and volley once,” reflected Paul afterwards about his shredded gameplan.

“When I did make my first serve, I felt like he was returning it to the baseline. I was automatically on defence. Like, you get down 0-30 in your service games, it’s hard to be like, ‘All right, I’m going to serve and volley now’.

“I wanted to throw in drop shots. Didn’t get an opportunity to do any of that because he was hitting so deep. I wanted to change up pace with my slice. Missed my first three slices of the match. I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to start hitting my backhand; I’m not slicing well today.’

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“Attack on the second serve. He definitely surprised me. On big points, he was going big on second serves. Pretty much every point, the average second-serve speed was a little higher than I thought it was going to be.

“I mean, he didn’t let me do all those things, because of things that he did so well.”

And there’s also this: “It felt like things were getting away from me really fast. It felt like points were moving really fast. In-between-points time was going really quick.”

So the original gameplan goes out the window because Djokovic is hitting so deep it makes it difficult to get into the net or do anything but rally. Then you have to think on your feet and try and come up with a new plan, while also focusing on playing well enough to stay in the match against one of the greatest players of all time.

Alex de Minaur had a gameplan in the fourth round too.

(Video) Djokovic Discusses Life Challenges in Winning Speech For Australian Open | Eurosport Tennis

With Djokovic bothered by a hamstring injury in his first few matches, De Minaur, whose stamina is up there with the best, planned to “get him moving, really test where he's at”.

Djokovic ran out a clear winner for the loss of just five games.

“Yeah, didn't get much joy out of it,” said a deflated De Minaur afterwards, while admitting Djokovic was simply on “another level”.

Serving up a storm

Djokovic’s forehand was an area that drew strong praise from his coach Goran Ivanisevic after the final.

“He stepped up and he was smacking forehands unbelievable. Really probably the best two weeks of forehands that I ever saw from him in his life. I mean, I never saw him hitting better forehands before. He was really going for it.”

The numbers back up Ivanisevic’s glowing assessment.

Over the course of the tournament Djokovic relied on his forehand far more than his backhand, hitting 111 winners from the former and just 38 on the backhand. In the final Djokovic hit 14 groundstroke winners from his forehand side and only five from his backhand. The unforced error count was also much higher on the backhand side than on Djokovic’s forehand.

But if Djokovic’s backhand was a weakness (statistically speaking) then the difficulty for opponents is getting to it. Djokovic has the skill to control points so expertly from the baseline and also now has a much-improved serve that can quickly put him on the front foot.

Ivanisevic deserves plenty of credit for that.

(Video) Djokovic overcome with emotion after historic Australian Open title | Wide World of Sports

Ivanisevic was a big server himself in his playing days and under his guidance Djokovic’s service motion appears smoother and the outcome more reliable. It’s not Djokovic’s biggest weapon but it’s quick, precise, and difficult to win points against.

In the final, Djokovic started by making 72% of his first serves in the opening set and won an incredible 17 of 18 points behind his first serve. He finished the match with a first-serve win rate of 82%, and 62% on his second serve, against 51% from Tsitsipas.

“At the beginning of his career, the serve was a weakness in his game,” explained Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker. “But he has understood over the years that the serve is important, and has also worked on improving it – and now it is his strength.”

Return game as good as ever

It wasn’t just De Minaur and Paul who were dispatched in swift fashion by Djokovic, fifth seed Andrey Rublev also went the same way in the quarter-finals.

Rublev has a bigger game than De Minaur but still found himself lacking an outstanding shot to hurt Djokovic.

"I’m not sure what style would bother him today,” said Eurosport expert Mats Wilander after watching Djokovic cruise past Rublev.

“You’ve got to throw in someone like a John Isner or someone to maybe throw him off the game, a huge server. Or a Nick Kyrgios serve, and you can hold serve and stay with him.”

But even if he had faced a rocket server, Djokovic’s unrivalled return skills looked as good as ever in Melbourne.

Over the tournament he won 163 return points in seven matches. Tsitsipas finished with 132. In the final Djokovic won 34 return points vs 22 for Tsitsipas. And even though Tsitsipas doesn't have the biggest serve in the game, it was still described by Wilander as a "huge weapon" during the tournament.

'I thought I had seen everything'

Remember that Djokovic came into the Australian Open with an injury? A hamstring injury that was so bad, according to Ivanisevic, that most players wouldn’t have even played the tournament.

(Video) Novak Djokovic Press Conference | Australian Open 2023 Final

"I will not say 100%, but 97% of the players when you get the results of the MRI you go straight to the referee's office and pull out. But not him. He's from a different species,” said Ivanisevic after the final.

Not only was there the injury to deal with, but the emotional baggage from everything that happened last year over his eventual deportation, and then the flag incident involving his father after the quarter-finals, which Djokovic said impacted him.

“Of course, it's not pleasant for me to go through this with all the things that I had to deal with last year and this year in Australia. It's not something that I want or need...It has got to me, of course, as well.”

Yet if Djokovic’s mind was distracted at all by events off the court, it didn’t show in his performances. He was relentless throughout and only gave a glimpse into everything he was carrying when his emotions were let loose with his team after the final.

“The guy is unbelievable,” reflected Ivanisevic. “I don't know how to describe him. I thought I had seen everything, but then I see this…unbelievable.”

How to beat a player with such focus and determination, to go with such incredible physical skills? And on a court where even he admits he has built up a reputation for never being out.

“Statistically, I've managed to win more matches where I was down and that's why I think there's probably an aura, you know, that people talk about me in that way,” he said in the second week.

“That is great because it also sort of serves as kind of a little advantage over…my opponent knowing that when he's in front that he's still not done yet with me, that he has to play to the last shot.”

As Tsitsipas found out, playing that last shot against Djokovic is not easy.

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Who is better Federer Nadal or Djokovic? ›

At the Grand Slam tournaments, the trio are the all-time title leaders; Nadal and Djokovic have each won a record 22 majors, and Federer 20. Nadal has won a record 14 French Open titles, Djokovic a record 10 Australian Open titles, and Federer a record eight Wimbledon titles.

Has Djokovic won all 4 Grand Slams in a year? ›

Djokovic is the only male player to hold all four Grand Slams on three different surfaces (hard, clay, and grass) at once (2015 Wimbledon to 2016 French Open), and became the only male player to win 30 consecutive Grand Slam matches (2015 Wimbledon – 2016 Wimbledon).

Who is considered the best tennis player of all-time? ›

1. Serena Williams. Arguably the all-time GOAT, Serena Williams currently holds 23 grand slam titles, second only to the great Margaret Court. Serena has shone both on the singles and doubles court, winning 14 grand slam doubles titles (all of which were alongside her sister Venus).

Has Nadal ever beaten Djokovic? ›

The two men have faced each other 59 times, more than any other player. Djokovic leads their head-to-head 30 wins to 29. The Serb is also the one who has won the most finals: 15 to 13. But Nadal has won the most of their 18 Grand Slam meetings.

Has anyone ever won all 4 tennis Grand Slams in one year? ›

Only five players in history have won all four Grand Slams in the same year, and the last to do it was Steffi Graf in 1988. The only men to achieve the feat are Don Budge (in 1938) and Rod Laver (in 1962 and 1969).

What is it called when you win all 4 Grand Slams in one year? ›

A Grand Slam, also referred to as a Calendar-year Grand Slam or a Calendar Slam, is the achievement of winning all four major tennis championships in one discipline in a calendar year. In doubles, a team may accomplish the Grand Slam playing together or a player may achieve it with different partners.

Who has won all 4 Grand Slams in the same year twice? ›

Calendar Year Grand Slam (four majors in one calendar year)
  • Don Budge ( 1938)
  • Rod Laver ( 1962 • 1969) Note: Laver is the only player ever to achieve this twice.

Who is the true GOAT of tennis? ›

Only one player has achieved the holy grail of tennis – the calendar year Grand Slam. Australian Rod Laver won all four majors in the Open era – the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – in 1969, and it is a nod to this achievement that this weekend's Laver Cup has been named.

Who is the most respected tennis player in the world? ›

Djokovic's consistent performance has often seen him topping the world rankings. He is the current world No. 1 and has already eclipsed Roger Federer as the player to have spent the most weeks as the world's best tennis player.

What is the most watched tennis match ever? ›

Serena Williams' final match at the US Open averaged 4.6 million viewers. It was the most-watched tennis match in ESPN history. Previously, the record stood at 3.9 million viewers for the 2012 Wimbledon final, in which Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray.

Who is the toughest tennis player? ›

NOVAK DJOKOVIC - THE MENTALLY STRONGEST TENNIS PLAYER AND WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM HIM. Novak Djokovic is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time and is known not only for his phenomenal on court game but also for the extreme mental toughness he exhibits while playing.

Who defeated Novak the most? ›

Answer: Rafael Nadal has beaten Novak Djokovic the most including at seven Masters and five Grand Slam finals.

Why is Nadal unbeatable on Clay? ›

Nadal's heavy topspin forehand – the most potent in the game - backed by his crushing, slightly flatter backhand, and his physical stamina make him particularly suited to clay.

What is the most prestigious tennis Grand Slam? ›

Most people would agree that Wimbledon is the most prestigious tennis tournament. Of the four grand slam tournaments in professional tennis (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open), Wimbledon always seems to attract the most attention.

Has a team ever hit 3 Grand Slams in one game? ›

Reds and Brewers Tie Single-Game Record with 3 Grand Slams | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors | Bleacher Report.

Has there ever been 2 Grand Slams in one game? ›

Thirteen players have hit two grand slams in a single Major League Baseball (MLB) game to date, the most recent being Josh Willingham of the Washington Nationals on July 27, 2009. No player has accomplished the feat more than once in his career and no player has ever hit more than two in a game.

Are Grand Slam trophies kept? ›

Final Thoughts. There are many magnificent trophies to be won in tennis. The Grand Slams have historic permanent trophies, and issue their champions with replicas, but these are still impressive.

How much does it cost to enter Wimbledon? ›

Wimbledon is the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world and tickets are always oversubscribed. Tickets to The Championships start at £8 for a Ground Pass. A premium Centre Court seat at the Men's Finals could cost upwards of £7,000.

Has Federer won all 4 Grand Slams in one year? ›

Rod Laver and Novak Djokovic are the only players to win all four Grand Slams in a row. Roger Federer has come close in 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2009, but couldn't complete the milestone.

Who is the only player to have won the Grand Slam twice in tennis? ›

Roy Emerson was the first man in history to win each major title twice (1967), and the only man to have completed a Career Grand Slam in both singles and doubles. Rod Laver is the only man to complete a Grand Slam more than once in his career, in 1962 as an amateur and in 1969 as a professional.

Has anyone won a Grand Slam in singles and doubles? ›

Only seven players in the last 30 years have won the singles and doubles titles at the same Grand Slam - and just one has accomplished the feat at Roland Garros.

Who is the only tennis player to win all 4 Grand Slams? ›

Steffi Graf is the only player to have won all four Grand Slams within a single calendar year- an impressive feat. The German golfer achieved this remarkable accomplishment by winning the 1988 Olympic gold medal, the 1988 Australian Open, the 1988 French Open, and the 1988 Wimbledon Championships.

Who is better Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic? ›

Comparison of Grand Slam titles

Djokovic has won 22 Grand Slam titles to Federer's 20. Djokovic has the all-time record of 13 hardcourt Grand Slam titles (Australian Open and US Open), two more than Federer. Federer has the all-time Wimbledon record of 8 titles, one more than Djokovic. Bold indicates outright record.

Is Nadal better than Federer? ›

On clay, Nadal comfortably dominates the head-to-head with a 14-2 record while Federer leads 3-1 on grass and 11-9 on hard courts. Roger Federer's only two wins against Rafael Nadal on clay courts came at the 2007 Hamburg Masters and the 2009 Madrid Open, both in finals.

Why is Federer better than Novak? ›

Novak Djokovic is the only player ever to have won every Masters 1000 in his career (Miami, Indian Wells, Monte-Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Montreal / Toronto, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris). Federer did not win in Monte-Carlo and Rome, though he played several finals there. Roger Federer has spent 310 weeks at world ATP No.

What is Djokovic's record against Federer? ›

On hard courts, Federer won 83.3% of his matches, Djokovic 84.5%. On clay courts, Federer won 76.1% of his matches, Djokovic 79.6%. On grass, Federer won 87.4% of his matches, Djokovic 84.1%.

Who has more fans Roger or Nadal? ›

Rafael Nadal wins ATP Fans' Favorite Award for first time, ending Roger Federer's streak. Federer had been voted Fans' Favorite singles player the last 19 years in a row, between 2003 and 2021.

Who is better than Djokovic? ›

Federer won 103 tour singles titles, Nadal has 92 and Djokovic 88. (For once, another player beats the triumvirate: Jimmy Connors, playing in a much different era, won 109 titles, something for those who want to make a very contrarian case for the best ever.)

Are Federer and Nadal friends? ›

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal share a rivalry like no other in sports history. They have remained fierce competitors on court where they have faced each other 40 times in their 18-year-long rivalry with considering the other their "greatest rival", and off the court they have remained great friends.

Who is Rafael Nadal Best Friend? ›

Tennis fans have always known about the unique friendship and rivalry shared by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but the pair have discussed their bond in new and fresh ways after the 41-year-old Swiss bowed out from professional tennis at the Laver Cup.

Has Nadal ever lost a set 6 0? ›

Rafael Nadal is universally considered the greatest claycourt player of all time, leading to him being labeled the 'King of Clay'. The 35-year-old has won an ATP record of 62 titles on the surface, 13 more than Guillermo Vilas in second place.

Who has more titles Novak or Nadal? ›

2023: Djokovic won a record-extending 10th Australian Open title by beating Tsitsipas for his 22nd Grand Slam title, equalling Nadal's record.

Why is Novak so good at tennis? ›

What makes Djokovic so effective isn't simply his ability to consistently return shots and sustain rallies, but a knack for turning defence into offence. He's able to hit winners on the run and off-balance, effectively shrinking the court for his opponents in the process.

Is Djokovic better than Andy Murray? ›

The Djokovic–Murray rivalry is a modern-day tennis rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. They have met 36 times (including 19 finals), and Djokovic leads 25–11 overall and 11–8 in finals.

Who beats Djokovic the most? ›

#1 Rafael Nadal (beat Novak Djokovic in 7 Masters and 5 Grand Slam finals)

What is Djokovic's strength? ›

Djokovic's mental strength is one of the main reasons why he has dominated the 2010s decade winning 16 grand slams in the decade which is more than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal combined who won a total of 15 grand slams in the decade, further cementing his dominance.


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