By Ben Morse, CNN
It all comes down to this. With history and a spot at the top of the world rankings on the line, Novak Djokovic faces Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open men’s final on Sunday.
The winner will be named the new world No. 1; it’ll be a first for Tsitsipas but will be a return to the top for Djokovic who has spent a record 373 weeks at the summit of the men’s rankings.
But not only is a spot at the top of standings on the line, both players have individual milestones in their headlights.
For Djokovic, a victory on Sunday would be a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, his 22nd overall grand slam — equaling the overall men’s record currently held by Rafael Nadal.
Victory on Sunday would also be the overcoming of numerous talking points over the past two weeks — from his hamstring injury to his father being pictured at a demonstration with fans holding Russian flags, voicing his support for Russia.
After his semifinal victory over American Tommy Paul, Djokovic explained how he’s been dealing with the scrutiny, saying he just had to “accept it.”
“In my case, I feel like things are just kind of piling on, adding on somehow for one reason or another,” he told reporters. “It’s not an ideal situation or circumstances to be in when you have to kind of deal with all these other outside factors that are not really necessary during such an important event.
“But it’s been part of my life. Unfortunately last few years more so. I just try to evolve from it. I try to become more resilient, more stronger. I think with the experience that I have with my routines, I feel like I’m strong enough to know what I need to do, when I need to do certain things. I’m able to switch off.”
He continued: “But in one way or another today, information comes to you. When it does, it’s there, so then you have to find a way just to kind of accept, let it go, just not allow it to consume your day or turn your state of mind into something that you don’t want, especially before semifinals or finals of a grand slam.
“These are the moments where you’re just like, okay, now it’s about locking in, it’s about creating your own space with your own people, being comfortable, and just trying to focus on what matters.”
On the other side of the net will be Tsitsipas playing in his second grand slam final — Djokovic will be featuring in his 33rd.
His composure, accuracy and big hitting has impressed on his road to the final and now is within touching distance of claiming his maiden major title.
The 24-year-old is out for revenge against Djokovic after the pair met in the 2021 French Open final in which Djokovic came from two sets down to defeat the Greek player.
And with so much on the line in the final, Tsitsipas remembered back to the days when he looked up to those in the position he is in now.
“I remember watching (players winning grand slams) on TV saying to myself: ‘I want to be there one day myself. I want to recreate that feeling for me,'” he told reporters after his semifinal victory over Russia’s Karen Khachanov.
“I knew that’s a very long journey to get there. There are certain steps you have to take to give yourself the chance to be competing for something like this.
“But I very much believed it. I very much believed it. First of all, it’s your ego that speaks. You either have it or not, you know? As a kid, I was very confident. Thank God I was good in my country.
“Starting from that, I knew if I’m able to get out of my country and compete in other countries, European leagues, European tours, I proved myself over and over again that I’m actually good. I did finish as a junior No. 1. Now I want to do it in the men’s side, in the men’s professional tennis.”
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.