(AFP) – Jan 27, 2008
MELBOURNE (AFP) — Tennis hot property Novak Djokovic broke through for his first Grand Slam triumph with a dramatic four-set victory over unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Australian Open on Sunday.
The 20-year-old third seed became the first Serb to win a Grand Slam, coming from behind to register a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) victory over the tournament bolter in three hours six minutes.
His victory was the first Grand Slam final since the 2005 Australian Open not won by Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal with the top-ranked pair dominating the game, claiming the last 11 majors between them.
"I am so proud of myself and to be the first Serbian who won the Grand Slam title," said Djokovic, who eclipsed Jim Courier as the youngest men's winner at Melbourne Park.
"I was trying to stay there with Jo because I knew that sooner or later with my style of the game I could get in control of the match, which I did in the middle of the second set.
"Today I was nervous on the start because I was in the strange situation of being the favorite in the final of a Grand Slam.
"It was dangerous, but I managed to cope with the pressure well and to win."
Djokovic and Tsonga rocked the established order by dumping Federer and Nadal out in the semi-finals to set up a decider unimaginable at the start of the tournament.
The Serb went on to claim his first major title in his 13th Grand Slam after losing to Federer in last year's US Open final.
The victory stretched his winning streak to 11 matches, beating his previous best unbeaten run.
Tsonga, bidding to become France's first Grand Slam winner in 25 years, started well and took the only set off Djokovic in the tournament but could not go the distance.
"I'm very proud of myself," said the Muhammad Ali lookalike, who blasted Nadal out of the tournament in straight sets.
"I don't know if I'm sad or happy. Novak played very well and it was tough."
He could not reproduce his blistering semi-final form on Sunday, although he still played well with his winners outnumbering his errors.
Djokovic appeared to tweak his left hamstring in stretching for a volley at 0-30 on Tsonga's service in the fourth game of the fourth set and sought treatment from the trainer at the next changeover.
But he held on to take the championship in the fourth-set tiebreaker.
"I knew the soreness was getting me in the hamstring so I had trainer give me a little massage," Djokovic said.
"I was trying just to maintain my consistency, to play at a high level and just be focused, not be nervous and that's why I was pretty successful in the tiebreak."
Djokovic remains at number three in rankings behind Federer and Nadal but Tsonga is projected to climb to 18 from 38.
Both players exchanged service breaks in the opening two games but the young Serb came under pressure towards the end of the opening set.
Tsonga pulled off a terrific forehand winner from a Djokovic smash to bring up set point and then a desperate lob volley just floated inside the baseline to break the Serb and take the set in 49 minutes of tense tennis.
Djokovic picked up his game in the second, grabbing the crucial break in the seventh game when Tsonga's forehand was wide.
He served out to level the final with three set points in the 10th.
Djokovic then took command, breaking the Frenchman in the third and ninth games of the third set.
But he needed seven set points to get his second break and the set after the Tsonga fought a desperate rearguard battle.
The French star never gave up and had a break point on Djokovic in the 11th game of the fourth set but the Serb held serve.
Djokovic dominated the crucial tiebreaker to take the championship on the first of his four match points.
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