Mon, Jan 28, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Djokovic wins first Grand Slam title

VICTORY The Serb claimed the Australian Open, downing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who was seeking to become the first Frenchman to win a Grand Slam singles title for 25 years

AFP , MELBOURNE

Serbia's Novak Djokovic holds the trophy after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the final of the men's singles at the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Novak Djokovic earned his first Grand Slam triumph with a dramatic four-set victory over unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Australian Open yesterday.

The 20-year-old third seed became the first Serb to win a tennis Grand Slam, coming from behind to register a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) victory in three hours six minutes.

Djokovic's victory was the first Grand Slam final since the 2005 Australian Open not won by Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

"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 think it will be a crazy house back in Serbia in my country, I love you guys," he said. "I know the crowd wanted him to win but I don't mind, no worries."

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 and also reaching the semi-finals at the French Open and Wimbledon.

The victory stretched his winning streak to 11 matches, beating his previous best unbeaten run.

Tsonga, bidding to become France's first male Grand Slam singles winner in 25 years, started well and took the only set off Djokovic in the tournament but could not go the distance with him.

"I thank Novak for a good fight and for me it was a good moment. I'll be back," said Tsonga, who blasted Nadal out of the tournament in straight sets.

He couldn't reproduce his blistering semi-final form yesterday, 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.

Djokovic will remain at No. 3 in the rankings behind Federer and Nadal after his win 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 on serve towards the end of the opening set.

Tsonga pulled off a terrific forehand winner off 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 set, grabbing the crucial break in the seventh when Tsonga's forehand went wide.

He served out to level the final with three set points in the 10th.

Djokovic then took command of the match, breaking Tsonga in the third and ninth games to hit the front in the third set.

But he needed seven set points to get his second break and the third set after the Frenchman fought a desperate rearguard battle.

Tsonga never gave up and had a break point in the 11th game of the fourth set but the Serb held serve.

Djokovic dominated the fourth set tiebreaker to take the championship on the first of his four match points.

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