The daunting task facing Stefanos Tsitsipas

But first Tsitsipas has to take this step: 2008. 2011 to 2013. The double in 2015 and 2016. Then another hat trick from 2019 to 2021. Djokovic. On repeat. It is a challenge, but also a great opportunity.

“Right now I just have to say that this is a very humbling opportunity for me. Being here in the final means a lot,” said Tsitsipas.

“Starting here as one of my first junior grand slams and now being in the men’s final is just as important as my very first steps, which I took on the tennis court.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Karen Khachanov in the semifinals.

Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Karen Khachanov in the semifinals.Credit:Eddie Jim

It was hardly the smoothest of the Australian Open for Djokovic. He had to revisit last year’s debacle when he was deported on the eve of the tournament.

Then there was a hamstring problem, which he dealt with remarkably well. Another controversy erupted on Wednesday night when his father Srdjan Djokovic posed for photos with Russian fans.

But problems on the pitch were few, with Djokovic dominating the second week of the tournament.

“I think that the experience of having been in this particular situation and under these circumstances before helps,” said the Serb. “I also think the fact that I never lost the Australian Open final is definitely a big confidence boost ahead of Sunday.”

The mind games began before both men advanced to the final with victories over Karen Khachanov and Tommy Paul respectively.

Tsitsipas said after his defeat to Khachanov that he forgot about the Roland Garros final in 2021 when he was caught by Djokovic in five sets after a brilliant start.

This was in response to Djokovic pretending not to know what is one of his finest triumphs given the deficit and the surface. But there was a clear reason for Djokovic’s poor memory.

Just as Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath noted the batsman he wanted to torment every summer, Djokovic identified Tsitsipas as his biggest threat early on at the Australian Open.

It is said that summer success Down Under usually goes to the player who worked the hardest during the off-season to prepare for the new year. Andre Agassi was a master at it.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Mark Philippoussis in training on Saturday ahead of Sunday's final.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Mark Philippoussis in training on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s final.Credit:AP

Tsitsipas ended last season on irritation when he failed to get through a group that also included Djokovic at the ATP Tour Finals in Turin.

After reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open last year, where he was beaten by Daniil Medvedev, his Major-level form declined alarmingly.

A controversial loss to Nick Kyrgios in a fiery third-round encounter at Wimbledon grabbed the headlines, but the real shocker came in a first-round loss to qualifier Daniel Galan at the US Open.

The sting sparked a strong preseason. With coach Mark Philippoussis proving a calming influence, Tsitsipas has shown clear thoughts on a strong start to 2023 on the pitch.

“I play great tennis. I’m amused. I just don’t see any downside or negativity in what I’m trying to do out there,” he said.

“Even if it doesn’t work out, I’m very optimistic and positive about every result, every opponent I have to face. It’s something that was kind of missing in my game. I really believe in what I can produce.”


The 24-year-old is unbeaten this year after winning all four of his United Cup singles games for Greece, including tough victories over Matteo Berrettini, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric. During this Australian Open he recovered strongly when he was challenged by Jannik Sinner. Djokovic noticed that.

“I will play against Tsitsipas who is in great form, great form [and] has played some of his best tennis. I’m sure he will be very motivated to win his first Grand Slam title,” Djokovic said.

Following his triumph over Khachanov, Tsitsipas posted a photo of himself flying into a forehand on social media with the caption: From the tarmac pitches of Vouliagmeni to the holy sites of Rod Laver Arena.

One of his earliest tennis memories is that of Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis reaching the final of the 2006 Australian Open. It was a groundbreaking moment that inspired the teenage Tsitsipas.

Due to his Greek heritage, Pete Sampras was a family favorite. But Roger Federer was the player who inspired his flair, from his one-handed backhand moves to his desire to attack the net whenever possible.


“I definitely have Roger to thank for my aggressive style of play,” he said in the recently released book The Roger Federer Effect.

“But I was trying to develop my own technique and develop my own skills on the pitch. So I did my own thing.”

It was an upset loss to the Swiss great in 2019 at Melbourne Park that identified him as a Grand Slam contender.

Now is the chance to dethrone the King of Melbourne Park on the same court.

Watch the Australian Open live on Channel Nine 9Now.

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Ryan Sederquist

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