|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Djokovic tames Tsonga for first Slam
January 27, 2008 17:49 IST
Last Updated: January 27, 2008 18:24 IST
Novak Djokovic stood toe-to-toe with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and soaked up everything the Muhammad Ali of tennis could throw at him before delivering a knock-out blow to clinch the Australian Open title on Sunday.
Tsonga, nicknamed Ali for his resemblance to the former heavyweight boxing champion, was the crowd favourite to win his first Grand Slam but Djokovic was too solid and too steely and it was the Serb who snatched his first major title 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6.
"I am very happy to have won my first Grand Slam here," the third seed smiled to the crowd. "I hope to see you here in this position many times more.
"I want to thank all the Serbian fans who came here to support me -- I am so proud to be the first Serbian to win a Grand Slam title.
"I think it will be crazy house back in Serbia right now."
Monica Seles [Images] won three Australian Open titles while competing under the Yugoslav flag from 1991-1993.
Unseeded Tsonga came out swinging, needing 49 minutes to clinch the opener and fuel his country's hopes he could become the first Frenchman to win the Open in 80 years.
Djokovic had dealt with world number one Roger Federer [Images] in the semis but initially he could not out-muscle his burly opponent.
Tsonga crunched aces and slammed winners, taking the match to the world number three and keeping him on his heels.
But Djokovic is a determined character and kept gunning away.
His reward came in the seventh game of the second set. Djokovic earned a break point when he belted a backhand return past the Frenchman and dictated the next point before Tsonga sent a forehand wide.
The world number three pummelled his chest with his fist and marched to his seat.
There was a spring in his step which had been missing at the start and Tsonga's head dropped.
Djokovic squared the match with an ace and secured a break early in the third set as his experience began to tell. He steered the ball around court with purpose while Tsonga relied on flashy winners for the bulk of his points.
A second break with Tsonga serving at 5-3 down clinched the third for Djokovic but not before the Frenchman had fought off six set points.
It was theatrical stuff and kept the celebrity-studded crowd enthralled. Rock star Sting [Images] cheered from his seat while pianist and composer Burt Bacharach simply shook his head at the Frenchman's antics.
Djokovic kept his mind on the job, however. He held serve in the fourth and repeatedly probed for weaknesses in the Tsonga delivery, pausing at one point to receive a light massage on his tired leg muscles.
He kept his nose ahead until serving at 5-5 he faced a break point at 30-40. He saved it with an audacious drop shot followed by an angled volley and held.
Tsonga, though, was upset by how long the Serb was taking between points and the crowd agreed. His hold of serve was met with a muted response.
Tsonga seemed to struggle with nerves, firing one forehand about four metres long and hitting his first double fault of the match but he still held to force a tiebreak.
His nerve did snap finally. Broken on the second point he also dropped serve on the sixth with his second double fault.
Djokovic served it out 7-2 before dropping to the court and kissing the surface.
List of Australian Open men's champions (till 1990)
2008 Novak Djokovic (Serbia) beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France [Images]) 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6