Novak Djokovic has sent the tennis world into meltdown after fans reacted to a detail on the Serb's clothing after he clinched a 10th Australian Open title on Sunday night. The 35-year-old was in commanding form as he beat Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) to equal Rafael Nadal's all-time men's record of 22 major singles titles.
Already the longest-serving World No.1 in history, Djokovic is set to return to the summit of men's tennis and he was overcome with emotion after the final, as the enormity of his achievement had sunk in. Clearly the events of last year when he was deported out of Australia and the scrutiny surrounding his hamstring injury at this year's tournament took its toll, with the Serb seen crying uncontrollably with his team in the stands and by the side of the court after the match.
Djokovic's emotions settled down by the time the trophy presentation rolled around, but it was another detail - this time on the Serb's clothing that sparked a frenzy on social media. The Serb came out for the trophy presentation wearing a jacket with the number '22' printed on it - to symbolise his record-equalling major triumph at Melbourne Park.
Just like Roger Federer had done at Wimbledon all those years ago by wearing a jacket with 15 on it when he surpassed Pete Sampras' record of grand slam titles in 2009, Djokovic was revelling in his momentous accomplishment. The tennis world - including Aussie rival Nick Kyrgios - couldn't get enough of the boss move from Djokovic.
Djokovic's Lacoste 22 jacket is 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/jaM1JGdI08
— Bastien Fachan (@BastienFachan) January 29, 2023
the jacket with 22 on it is elite energy, haha I love it…. NEED MORE
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) January 29, 2023
See you, raise you. pic.twitter.com/plAbdl9MN3
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) January 29, 2023
The jacket that Djokovic is wearing🙏🏽
22 Grand Slam Titles😳🤯😍🙌🏽🍻 pic.twitter.com/pzayVGS4Ja
— Reggie🐺🐊 (@Reggie61823972) January 29, 2023
I aspire to have as much confidence as Djokovic to have a jacket with "22" ready to go after the final pic.twitter.com/i4xOLUuksg
— Jethro (@Jethro_sb) January 29, 2023
Speaking to Eurosport after the match, however, the Serb insisted he had no idea about the jacket before he put it on. The 35-year-old says someone from his team made him put it on before the trophy presentation and he was happy to sport the bold fashion statement.
“I don’t know [when it was made],” he said. “People won’t believe me, but I had no clue about this jacket. I took a different jacket for the ceremony but my team told me to put on this one. It was nice of them.”
While Djokovic's win sees him equal Nadal for the most majors in the history of men's tennis, the Serb's supporters are adamant that he's the greatest player of all time. Going off his masterclass against Tsitsipas on Sunday night at Melbourne Park, few would argue that Djokovic looks destined to add to his grand slam tally. Indeed Tsitsipas was happy to label Djokovic the 'GOAT' in his runner-up speech.
“He’s the one of the greatest in our sport”, the Greek said before being encouraged to modify his statement from the raucous Serbian fans in the crowd. “He’s the greatest that has ever held a tennis racquet for sure,” Tsitsipas added to loud cheers from inside Rod Laver Arena.
“It speaks for yourself what you have achieved so far. It’s all in the numbers. Congratulations,” the Greek star told his opponent in a classy runner-up speech. “Not only to yourself but to having, like, such supportive family. You know, I think it’s very similar the way we grew up around tennis, so it’s been an unbelievable journey for you, so I admire what you have done for our sport.
“I think you make me a better player when I am on the court, so thank you. I’ve had the privilege to play a lot of difficult, high-intensity matches but I would like to say one more time Novak brings the best out in me, what I’ve been working my whole life for.”
Novak Djokovic plays down GOAT claims
Djokovic was humbled by the words from Tsitsipas and honoured to be mentioned in the GOAT conversation but said it was impossible to compare players from different eras. Speaking afterwards, the 35-year-old said he was happy enough just to be recognised among the legends of the game.
"No, no, look, first I have to say that, I am so honoured and privileged to be in this discussion, first," Djokovic said after snaring his 10th Australian Open crown at Melbourne Park. "Second, I truly honour and admire the history and all the greats that paved the way for all of us to be here where we are. I feel like it's difficult to have a conversation about this because every generation is different.
"You know, 30, 40 years ago you played three out of four slams on the grass with wooden racquets. Technology has advanced so much. Things have changed. Hard to compare generations.
"But I feel like I gave my best really and I'm still doing that. So if the people see me as one of the greatest players to ever play the game, I'm very grateful."
The father of two is also the only man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam singles titles simultaneously - and the only man to achieve the non-calendar-year grand slam on three different surfaces. Djokovic also enjoys a winning head-to-head record over Nadal (30-29) and the other GOAT contender Roger Federer (27-23) and owns the most Masters 1000 titles.
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