The roar after victory has been regular for Novak Djokovic. Laying down on the floor inside the players’ box, with his family and coaching staff around him, weeping unabashedly, is not. Yet that’s what happened when the Serbian, the new world No 1, beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) to win his 10th Australian Open title on Sunday.

For a player who is considered one of the hardest to crack mentally, this was a new look, a fresh look. A human look. Rarely ever before has he given in to emotion so openly after winning a title. But during his time in Melbourne in the recent past, he has faced adversity both off and on the court. And he’s prevailed. Finally, it was time to let go.

Among the 22 Grand Slam titles he’s won – a joint-record with Rafael Nadal for the most singles Majors won by a male player – this was the hardest to achieve. And he was the first to admit it.

“This has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life considering the circumstances. Not playing last year, coming back this year,” he said at the trophy ceremony.

He then added, “I just want to say only my team and family knows what I have been through the last 4-5 weeks. This probably is the biggest victory in my life... considering the circumstances,”

Djokovic was deported from Australia ahead of last year’s edition due to his vaccination status and legalities surrounding his arrival. This year he was allowed back into the country, but sustained a hamstring injury during the tune-up event in Adelaide. An injury he carried with him at the start of the year’s first Slam, but one that eased up as the tournament went on. And just when he no longer needed to worry about his leg, there was controversy when his father, Srdjan, was seen celebrating after Djokovic’s quarterfinal win with fans who held aloft flags and symbols that promoted the ongoing war in Ukraine.

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“When I went into my box, I emotionally collapsed there and teared up with especially my mother and my brother, when I gave them a hug, because up to that moment I was not allowing myself to be distracted with things off the court or whatever was happening,” he said in the post-match conference.

“In dealing with an injury, things happening off the court, as well, that could easily have been a big disturbance to my focus, to my game. It required an enormous mental energy really to stay present, to stay focused, to take things day by day, and really see how far I can go.”

He also referred to the controversy, saying: “Events of the last few days with my father, that was not easy for me to handle, especially at these last stages of a Grand Slam. But I had to keep it together.”

On social media, Australia’s tennis star Nick Kyrgios posted: “We created a monster.”

It was with reference to the deportation last year, which gave Djokovic more layers to the determination with which he wanted to win the title when he returned this year. For long, the 35-year-old has made clear his ambition to finish his career at the top of as many records as possible.

The mentality monster was always there, it’s just he had been prompted to sharpen his claws.

And so he did, relying on his textbook groundstrokes to open up angles and deflate the powerful Tsitsipas forehand. Djokovic’s forehands have become stronger over the years – from an average speed of 124 kmph in 2021 to 131 kmph this year. In the final he was hitting an average of 134 kmph in the second and third sets.

Just like the return winner he clobbered home with an inside-in forehand shot in the second point of the third set tiebreak. It was a point that gave him a mini-break, a valuable lead he would hold onto as he claimed his 93rd tour title – the fourth most by a male player in the Open Era. That number may soon change though.

“I still have lots of motivation. Let’s see how far it takes me. I really don’t want to stop here. I don’t have intention to stop here. I feel great about my tennis. I know that when I’m feeling good physically, mentally present, I have a chance to win any slam against anybody,” he added.

The quality of his play and ability to turn the screws on an opponent was fascinating to watch for the neutral. But for his 24-year-old opponent, who was competing in his second Grand Slam final, it was a lesson on what needs to be done to break the duck.

“Novak is a player that pushes you to your limits. This is very good for the sport, to have competitors like him, to have champions like him. He’s very important for us that want to get to his point one day,” Tsitsipas said in his post-match conference.

“Getting our as**s kicked is for sure a very good lesson every single time. He has made me a much better player. He has made my levels of concentration higher and higher every single time I get to play him. You have to be really involved and you have to be dedicated to the game when you play against him. I find it a very important part of my career, to have a player like him that will help me grow better and do bigger things.”

Considering how the final went, this may not be the last lesson Djokovic gets to dish out to the younger guard.

In the race for the Greatest of All Time-tag in men’s tennis, Djokovic is now level with Nadal on the measure of the number of Grand Slam titles won. He is a year younger than the Spaniard and has comparatively fewer injury concerns. An all-courter proficient on hard, clay and grass surfaces, Djokovic has widely been expected to be the one to finish his career with more Slams than any other man – perhaps even going better than Serena Williams’ 23 Slams and Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 singles titles.

But that can wait.

On Sunday, as Djokovic finally got his emotions in check and got back down to the Rod Laver Arena, his family pulled matching T-shirts with the words ‘Djokovic 10’ on the back – representing the 10 Australian Open titles he’s now won.

The man himself donned a jacket with the number 22 emblazoned for the trophy presentation.

Yet, perhaps the most important gesture came as soon as Tsitsipas’ forehand sailed long on Championship Point. Djokovic pointed to his head, and then thumped his chest.

Strong mind and big heart. That’s Novak Djokovic.