Novak Djokovic warmed up for his Australian Open return by saving a championship point en route to clinching the Adelaide International title with a thrilling victory over American Sebastian Korda.
The Serbian looked in danger of slipping to a surprise defeat before triumphing 6-7 (8) 7-6 (3) 6-4 in a gruelling three hours and nine minutes to extend his winning streak in Australia to 34 matches, dating back to 2019.
Djokovic was deported from the country ahead of the 2022 Australian Open as a risk to public health because of his refusal to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
But the 35-year-old, who received treatment on his left leg during Saturday’s semi-final win against Daniil Medvedev, will be back in Melbourne this month, chasing a 10th title.
He will arrive there brimming with confidence after lifting the 92nd tour-level trophy of his illustrious career at the end of an absorbing encounter.
Djokovic saved match point at 5-6 in the second set and, having dug in to keep himself in contention, surged through the tie-break to force a decider.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion tapped his right index finger to his head as a nod to his resilience after victory was sealed when 22-year-old Korda sent a final forehand long.
Djokovic is now tied with Rafael Nadal for the fourth-most men’s singles titles in the Open Era, trailing only Jimmy Connors (109), Roger Federer (103) and Ivan Lendl (94).
“Seb’s had an amazing tournament and put in an amazing effort today,” said Djokovic. “I think he was closer to victory at times today than I was. It was only a couple of shots, a couple of points.”
Djokovic at times showed irritation with this coach Goran Ivanisevic who supported him from a courtside box or remonstrated with himself after a wasted point.
“I’d like to thank my team for handling me, tolerating me in the good and bad times today,” he added. “I’m sure they didn’t have such a blast with me going back and forth with them, but I appreciate them being here.”
Earlier, second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka claimed her 11th WTA Tour singles title but her first in almost two years when she overcame qualifier Linda Noskova 6-2 7-6 (4) in the women’s final.
In doing so she ended an extraordinary run by 18-year-old Noskova who beat third-seeded Daria Kasatkina and former Australian Open champion Viktoria Asarenka in the main draw on the way to her first final.
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