Earlier this week, after having drawn Alex de Minaur in the third round, Novak Djokovic made a small
in his elocution, pretending that he did not remember that he had crossed paths with Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2021 Roland Garros final. "Perhaps he is the most experienced of the quarterfinalists because he has played advanced rounds of a Grand Slam, although not a final, or am I wrong?" The Serbian doubted, ignoring the comeback two years ago against the Greek in the only great final that the latter had played until today, the day in which both (9.30 Eurosport) meet again in another definitive episode, this time in Australia.
"Oh, it's true, it's true... Sorry, my mistake, my mistake," the Serb apologized.
Deep down, it was still a slap on the wrist because a year earlier, the Athenian, who until then had professed a reverential respect for him, had poured out one of the most forceful criticisms of what happened in Melbourne.
"He has played by his own rules," he said while Djokovic was arrested and the Australian court was deciding whether or not to deport him.
“Nobody would have thought that he could come in here without following the protocols, but he has worked differently and it takes a lot of daring to do it.
It seems that a small minority has chosen to follow their path, and make the majority of us look foolish”, stressed Tsitsipas, a talent as brilliant as it was questioned.
So different and so similar to the target of his dart.
Djokovic and Tsitsipas, in Melbourne at home
"I don't remember either.
No, I don't remember… ”, he replied on Friday when asked about Djokovic's slip.
"I have a good relationship with myself on the track," added the world four, another competitor with a strong personality and weapons to take, a guerrilla fighter even though he seeks explanation and peace in philosophy.
For a long time, his registration has been taken in the locker room and there are many who find an extra stimulus when they see him on the other side of the net, eager to punish a player who has sometimes bordered on the limits, like in the past Summer at Wimbledon.
There, he aimed the shot at the body of Nick Kyrgios, who had been driving him crazy.
“I did, but I missed by a lot.
It's not right, but I had to stop it;
he is mean and intimidating.
A thug ”, he argued.
It was not the only attempt to hit the target in an afternoon that passed between bad manners, disqualifications and insults.
They did not occur a year earlier in the meeting with the Scotsman Andy Murray in New York, but the Briton denounced the tricks of his rival.
Something I saw coming.
“It is not because of the fact that he has gone to the bathroom, but because of the time that he has taken.
I spoke to my team before starting and I told them that something like this could happen if things didn't go well, but you can't stop the game like that", he protested, fed up with the strategic pauses (physical problems, changing rackets) that he had done the Greek to break the rhythm of the game;
“I appreciate you, but I don't like these things.
Djokovic, on Friday against Tommy Paul. LOREN ELLIOTT (REUTERS)
Tsitsipas, who, like the other finalist, is opting today to dethrone Carlos Alcaraz as number one, has always been an admirer of Djokovic's professionalism and methodology.
In other words, the Serb represents everything he aspires to.
“He is like a Formula 1. He has everything perfectly synchronized: his diet, his daily life, his tennis.
In this sense, he is the best of all, ”he compliments her.
It happens that Djokovic, a man of principles, does not forget and considers that the boy (24 years old) must win his favor again.
"He has improved a lot in recent years and I think he is one of the most interesting guys on the circuit because of his concerns off the track and because of his hair," he ironized after beating Tommy Paul in the semifinals, while calling on the eager reunion: “See you on Sunday, Stefanos”.
Of course, he remembered the "battle" of Roland Garros and that he has "great respect for him", tennis-wise.
After all, Tsitsipas beat him two of the first three times they met, although from that third he took the measure and linked nine victories.
get into puddles
As happens to Nole himself, the Greek has an easy time getting into puddles on a recurring basis.
Without going any further, during the quarterfinal match he suffered a short circuit when the Czech Jiri Lehecka overwhelmed him with a right hand;
The ball hit the bottom canvas and when he returned, pissed off, the Athenian hit him when the ball boy was about to pick it up.
He played it.
In the case of having touched the kid, it would have meant his automatic disqualification from the tournament, as already happened to Belgrade in 2020 in New York.
Tsitsipas serves during the semifinal against Khachanov.ANTHONY WALLACE (AFP)
The books say Tsitsipas is the youngest player to reach the Australian Open final since Djokovic in 2011, when the then-23-year-old Serb beat Murray.
If he wins today, the Balkan would achieve his 22nd major and would equalize with Rafael Nadal and the German Steffi Graf.
”He is in great shape.
I know him well and he knows me well.
I'm sure he's very motivated to try to win his first big one, but I know what lies ahead and that experience helps in these kinds of circumstances.
I trust the best ”, resolves Nole, that in the event of achieving his tenth trophy in Australia he would return to the top of the circuit, a space that he lost in June.
"I'm playing very well and enjoying myself, I'm optimistic," Tsitsipas settles.
So different, so equal to his adversary.
TWO IMPECCABLE STREAKS
Djokovic will play his 33rd major final today, the tenth in the Australian tournament.
He will do it from Belgrade (35 years old) with the emotional reinforcement of knowing that he has not lost any of them so far.
In Melbourne he won his first big title and from that year, 2008, he did not fail.
He succeeded from 2011 to 2013 and later between 2015 and 2016;
Later he managed to chain the successes from 2019 to 2021.
Djokovic will tackle today's pulse in the center with an impeccable performance.
At this start of the season he has played 11 games that he counts as victories.
In the case of Tsitsipas, the dynamic is exactly the same;
the Greek has signed a plenary session in the 10 games he has played so far and can become the first player from his country to triumph in a top-flight tournament, the 58th in the Open Era (since 1968).
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