Alexander Bublik failed to bring an end to his woeful 2023 form on his return to the Open Sud de France.

Bublik's only career title to date came in Montpellier last year, but he will not defend his crown after losing in three sets to Gregoire Barrere in the first round on Wednesday.

That remarkable 6-4 6-7 (12-14) 7-6 (7-3) reverse represented Bublik's seventh loss in seven singles matches so far this season.

The 25-year-old, who has fallen to 50th in the rankings, has lost nine in a row going back to last year.

Bublik worked hard to stay in Wednesday's match in the second set, fending off three match points in the tie-break, but he could not show the same resilience in the decider as Barrere prevailed.

With the champion out, those hoping to take the title this week found life a little easier elsewhere.

Both Jannik Sinner and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina benefited from walkovers, albeit the Spaniard first had to dig in to level his match against Ugo Humbert, who had taken the opener 6-1.

Marc-Andrea Huesler will face top seed Holger Rune in the second round of the Open Sud de France after coming through a battle with teenager Luca Van Assche.

Huesler arrived in Montpellier on a high from victories over German duo Alexander Zverev and Oscar Otte for Switzerland in Davis Cup qualifiers last weekend.

The left-hander saw off 18-year-old Frenchman Van Assche 6-3 3-6 6-3 and will get a chance to improve his perfect record against Rune to 3-0.

Italian Lorenzo Sonego sent eighth seed Benjamin Bonzi packing with a 6-4 6-3 win, while French-born American Maxime Cressy progressed with a 6-3 6-2 defeat of Antoine Bellier.

Arthur Rinderknech and Quentin Halys also advanced on home soil, along with Marton Fucsovics and Filip Krajinovic.

Teenage wildcard Arthur Fils claimed his first ATP Tour victory to knock three-time champion Richard Gasquet out of the Open Sud de France.

The 18-year-old Fils, half the age of his opponent, won the first-round match against his fellow Frenchman 7-5 7-5 in Montpellier.

Fils will face another battle between youth and experience when he takes on Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in round two.

The 163-ranked Fils served eight aces and broke Gasquet four times to move into the next round

Nikoloz Basilashvili will face either defending champion Alexander Bublik or Gregoire Barrere in the last 16 after beating Constant Lestienne 6-3 (7-3) 7-5 6-2 in Monday's other match.

Nick Kyrgios has avoided a criminal conviction after pleading guilty to a charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Kyrgios, the ATP world number 20, was sentenced at a magistrates' court in Canberra on Friday.

The 27-year-old admitted to pushing his ex, Chiara Passari, to the ground during an altercation in January 2021.

However, magistrate Beth Campbell spared Kyrgios a criminal conviction, noting he had been: "A young man trying to extricate himself from a heightened emotional situation".

Ms Campbell said Kyrgios "acted in the heat of the moment" and chose to deal with him "in the same way I would deal with any young man in this court", adding he is a "young man who happens to hit a tennis ball particularly well".

In a post on his Instagram story after the ruling, Kyrgios said: "I respect today's ruling and I'm grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction. I was not in a good place when this happened and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret.

"I know it wasn't OK and I'm sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.

"Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I've found that getting help and working on myself has allowed me to feel better and to be better.

"I can never thank Costeen [Hatzi, his girlfriend], my family and friends enough for supporting me through this process. I now plan to focus on recovering from injury and moving forward in the best way possible."

The court heard Kyrgios pushed Ms Passari to the ground after she had prevented him from driving away during an argument on January 10, 2021.

Kyrgios' lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith explained last year's Wimbledon finalist had been attempting to de-escalate the situation by calling a taxi and had sworn at Ms Passari and told her to leave, before moving her away from the car.

It was agreed that Kyrgios said "I'm serious, I'm going to..." as he then pushed Ms Passari in the shoulder. Ms Passari said she felt some pain and also grazed her knee.

Kyrgios subsequently apologised.

Mr Kukulies-Smith told the court that there was "a relationship between the mental health and the offending", though noted Kyrgios no longer suffers to the same extent.

Psychologist Sam Borenstein told the court that Kyrgios, who missed this year's Australian Open due to injury, had "recurrent" mental health issues, including depression, suicidal ideation and insomnia, that were nevertheless improving.

Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open despite playing with a three-centimetre hamstring tear, according to tournament chief Craig Tiley, who paid tribute to the Serbian's resolve and drive.

Having missed last year's opening grand slam due to being deported for breaching Australia's border rules relating to his COVID-19 vaccination status, Djokovic returned in January and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final to claim a record-tying 22nd men's singles major on Sunday.

The feat, which drew him level with Rafael Nadal, was made all the more remarkable by an apparent hamstring problem that hampered the 35-year-old throughout the tournament.

Some critics suggested the extent of Djokovic's injury was exaggerated, but Tiley defended him.

"A lot of the challenges around Novak is that he gets a bad rap," he told SEN Sportsday. "But at the end of the day, I don't think anyone can question his athleticism.

"This guy, he had a three-centimetre tear. [The scans and] the doctors are going to tell you the truth. There was a lot of speculation about whether it was true or not.

"It's hard to believe what they can do with those kinds of injuries. He's remarkable, to deal with it extremely professionally."

Ten of Djokovic's 22 grand slam titles have come in Melbourne alone, outlining his impressive dominance at the event.

Tiley does not see the Serbian ever being overhauled when it comes to his impact there, adding: "He's so focused on everything he does, with every single minute of the day. That's what he eats, what he drinks, when he does it, how he does it.

"There's no breakdown or mental breakdown in anything that he does. He's been through a lot and to win 10 Australian Opens, I don't think that’s ever going to be repeated.

"Over the last 15 years – he tells me it's 14 years because he missed last year – it's such a remarkable achievement.

"He'll hold a significant place in the history of the Australian Open."

Rafael Nadal has congratulated Novak Djokovic on the "amazing achievement" of matching his record tally of 22 grand slam titles by winning the Australian Open on Sunday.

Djokovic and Nadal share the record for the most major tournaments won by a male player after the 35-year-old beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) at Melbourne Park.

The Serbian superstar also returned to the top of the rankings by being crowned Australian Open champion for a record-extending 10th time.

Djokovic and Nadal will head to the French Open in May eyeing major triumph number 23.

Spaniard Nadal, who will be out for around eight weeks due to a hip injury he aggravated during a second-round loss to Mackenzie McDonald in Melbourne, posted on Instagram: "Amazing achievement Nole @djokernole Many congrats to you and your team!

"Well deserved. Enjoy Nole!"

Swiss great Roger Federer, a winner of 20 major titles before retiring last year, also saluted Djokovic in an Instagram story on Sunday: "Incredible effort, again! Many congratulations." 

The legendary Margaret Court leads the way with 24 major singles titles, while Serena Williams racked up 23 in her incredible career.

Roger Federer hailed Novak Djokovic's 10th Australian Open title as an "incredible" feat as the Serbian joined Rafael Nadal on 22 singles grand slams.

Although Federer became the first man to reach 20 majors when he took the 2018 Australian Open title, the Swiss great could not add to that tally before retiring last September and has been overtaken by his two greatest rivals.

With Nadal struggling to stay fit and build up form, it appears Djokovic is the most likely man to add to his haul and finish his career as the outright most successful man in grand slam history.

"Incredible effort, again! Many congratulations," Federer wrote in an Instagram story, acclaiming Djokovic's straight-sets win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday's final at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic's Professional Tennis Players Association co-founder Vasek Pospisil described the Serbian as the tennis "man of steel". Fellow ATP Tour stars Denis Shapovalov and Holger Rune also sent messages of praise on social media to Djokovic, as did Jamaican sprinting legend Usain Bolt.

Novak Djokovic has been tipped by Nick Kyrgios to win at least 28 grand slams and become the most successful singles player in tennis history.

The prediction came after 35-year-old Djokovic reached 22 major triumphs on Sunday by landing the Australian Open title for a 10th time.

He now holds a share of the men's singles record with Rafael Nadal, but Djokovic made it clear after his latest big-stage success that he feels capable of collecting many more top-tier trophies.

Kyrgios is ostensibly a rival and was beaten by the Serbian in last year's Wimbledon final, but the Australian has also become one of Djokovic's greatest admirers.

In the wake of Djokovic beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Melbourne Park final, Kyrgios posted on Twitter: "Haha I told you. We created a monster. Well done @DjokerNole [Djokovic].

"Sat on my couch and enjoyed the entire show. He will get to 28 slams easy."

Kyrgios was also impressed by Djokovic emerging post-match in a jacket emblazoned with '22', a reminder of when Roger Federer had '15' on his top after winning Wimbledon in 2009 to take the outright lead in the men's grand slam race.

Federer burst past Pete Sampras, who had previously held the record for the most men's singles majors, but Djokovic and Nadal have since overtaken the Swiss, who retired last September after 20 slam successes.

The French Open in May and June could see an almighty tussle for the title as 14-time Roland Garros champion Nadal hunts another victory in Paris, while Djokovic bids to dethrone him and go to 23 singles slams, the same number as Serena Williams won.

Australian Margaret Court won more singles majors than anybody, with 24, but Kyrgios sees Djokovic soon overhauling that number.

Looking at his sartorial choice, Kyrgios saluted Djokovic's audacity, writing: "The jacket with 22 on it is elite energy, haha I love it…. NEED MORE."

Novak Djokovic "emotionally collapsed" after winning his 10th Australian Open title, before declaring: "I don't want to stop here."

The irrepressible Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) on Rod Laver Arena to match Rafael Nadal's record tally of 22 men's singles grand slam triumphs.

Djokovic's victory on Sunday also puts him back at the top of the world rankings, a year after he was unable to defend his title at Melbourne Park after being deported due to his vaccination status.

The 35-year-old from Serbia was also prevented from playing in the US Open last September because of his refusal to take a coronavirus vaccine, but he has made a dream start to 2023.

He was crowned champion of Adelaide International 1 before extending his Australian Open winning streak to 28 matches, with his last defeat in the first major of the year coming at the hands of Hyeon Chung in the fourth round back in 2018.

While in Melbourne this time, Djokovic had to contend with questions about his father, Srdjan, posing with a group of men waving Russian flags that were banned from the grounds during the tournament.

His father did not attend his son's semi-final win over Tommy Paul or the final, but the legendary Belgrade native was able to embrace mother Dijana after defeating Tsitsipas.

Djokovic, who was struggling with a hamstring injury in the first week of the tournament, was in floods of tears and dropped to the floor in his box after being mobbed by his team following what he described as "the biggest victory of my life" in his on-court interview.

He said: "When I went into my box, I just think 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 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.

"If I turn back the time two and a half weeks ago, I wasn't really liking my chance in this tournament with the way I felt with my leg. Then it was just a matter of survival of every single match, trying to take it to the next round.

"The good thing about the grand slam here is that you have a day between the matches, so it allowed me to have more time than normally on some other tournaments to recover, to try to do all the treatments in order to get myself in somewhat of a good state and condition to play and eventually win.

"From fourth round onwards, I feel the leg was not bothering me as much. I felt my movement was much better. I played some of my best tennis in the Australian Open. The fourth round, quarter-final, semi-finals, just really comfortable on the court, hitting the ball great. I knew that against Stefanos, it's going to be different match than what I had throughout the entire tournament."

Djokovic added: "It was a huge relief and release of the emotions in the end. Just difficult to find any additional words really. It's been a long journey, but a very special one."

He will head to the French Open in May eyeing major number 23 and is eager to better the great Margaret Court's haul of 24.

"Of course I am motivated to win as many slams as possible," Djokovic said. "At this stage of my career, these trophies are the biggest motivational factor of why I still compete. That's the case without a doubt.

"I never really liked comparing myself to others, but of course it's a privilege to be part of the discussion as one of the greatest players of all time. If people see me this way, of course it's very flattering because I know that I give as much effort and energy into trying to win slams as anybody else.

"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.

"I like my chances going forward. But, again, nothing is given or nothing is for granted. Of course, I have awareness there's a lot of players that want this trophy or want the number one position in the world.

"I don't know how many more years I'm going to play or how many more slams I'm going to play. It depends on various things. It doesn't depend only on my body.

"It's extremely important for me to have the support and love from the close ones, and ability to go and play and keep the balance with the private life, but at the same time have the mental clarity or aspirations to really strive to chase these trophies.

"Physically I can keep myself fit. Of course, 35 is not 25, even though I want to believe it is. But I still feel there is time ahead of me. Let's see how far I go."

Goran Ivanisevic says Novak Djokovic is from "other space" and revealed he took "77 therapies a day" on a hamstring injury to ensure he could win a record-extending 10th Australian Open title.

Serbian great Djokovic moved level with Rafael Nadal on 22 grand slam titles, a record for male players, by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) on Rod Laver Arena in Sunday's final.

Djokovic was able to go all the way at Melbourne Park despite suffering from a hamstring problem that troubled him particularly during the first week.

The 35-year-old moved back to the top of the rankings with his latest major triumph and Ivanisevic, his coach, felt it was impressive that he was able to play, let alone win the title. 

"Let me put it like this. I don't say 100 per cent, but 97 per cent of the players, on Saturday when you get results of the MRI, you go straight to the referee's office and pull out of the tournament," the Croatian said. 

"But not him. He is from other space. His brain is working different. I [have been] with him [for] four years, but it still sometimes [amazes me] how his brain works.

"He gave everything, 77 therapies a day. Every day was kind of better and better. I didn't expect this. Honestly, I was shocked. First two rounds [were] okay, but then against [Grigor] Dimitrov [I] was very scared.

"But he got through and in the end he won the tournament."

Djokovic also became the third-oldest player in the Open Era to win the Australian Open, younger only than Ken Rosewall (in 1972 and 1971) and Roger Federer (2018).

Ivanisevic was also asked by reporters how much longer he believes Djokovic can continue to take on all comers at the highest level.

"Definitely two, three more years. The way he's taking care of his body, the way he approaches everything, the food, it's amazing. It's unbelievable the level," he said.

"We are talking about young guys. They're here, it's great for tennis, great for the future of tennis.

"But you still have these two guys [Djokovic and Nadal] battling. This was Novak's home court, and now we are going to Rafa's home court [the French Open] in this handball match of 22-22.

"Yes, [young players] are coming, [Carlos] Alcaraz, unbelievable. Still, if Rafa steps on the court on the French Open, for me, he's always the favourite to win the tournament... [Djokovic and Nadal] really push each other.

"It's good that we have a lot of young guys. We have Stefanos who is going to win a grand slam definitely one day because he's just an amazing player."

Stefanos Tsitsipas paid tribute to Novak Djokovic after losing to the Serbian in Sunday's Australian Open final, lauding him as the "greatest that ever held a tennis racquet".

Djokovic was at his dominant best as he drew level with Rafael Nadal on 22 men's grand slam singles titles thanks to a straight-sets win over Tsitsipas at Melbourne Park.

The 35-year-old won 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) at Rod Laver Arena to make it 10 wins from as many Australian Open finals.

Djokovic was barred from defending his own crown last year when deported from Australia due to his COVID-19 vaccination status, but he returned with a vengeance in 2023, dropping just one set across seven matches as he also reclaimed the world number one spot.

But most importantly it put him level again with Nadal in terms of major titles after the Spaniard won in Melbourne and Roland Garros last year.

Despite this parity, Tsitsipas has no doubt who he believes is the best to ever play the sport.

"Novak, I don't know what to say. It speaks for itself what you have achieved so far," said the 24-year-old, whose wait for a maiden grand slam title continues. "It's all in the numbers.

"Congratulations, not only to yourself but having such a supportive family. I think it is very similar the way we grew up around tennis, so it's been an unbelievable journey for you.

"I admire what you've done for our sport, and I think you make me a better player when are on court.

 

"I have had the privilege to play a lot of difficult and high intensity matches, but I would like to say one more time Novak brings out the best in me.

"He's one of the greatest in our sport, and he's the greatest that has ever held a tennis racquet, for sure.

"I'd like to thank you for pushing our sport so far. I think it deserves a player like you who pushes every single player that's involved in the sport to the max."

Tsitsipas, who was bidding to become the 27th male singles champion at the Australian Open, had his moments as he forced set point in the second and broke Djokovic at the start of the third.

But Djokovic's famed powers of recovery were as strong as ever, and Tsitsipas – beaten by the same opponent in the 2021 French Open final – quickly turned his attention back to the daily grind.

"It's not easy, another final at a grand slam, but I am always willing to go back on court and work harder," he continued. "I would like to thank my team for coming on this journey with me.

"I am happy I have group of supportive people around me, people who wake up every single day and have the same goals and ambitions as me. I'm extremely privileged that I get to do this for a living."

Novak Djokovic described his latest Australian Open triumph as "probably the biggest victory of my life" as he put last year's adversity behind him to win the title for a 10th time.

The Serbian defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday to draw level with Rafael Nadal on 22 grand slam crowns – a joint-record for male players.

Djokovic dropped just one set across his seven matches in a dominant display down under, coming a year on from being deported from the country ahead of the 2022 edition.

He was denied the opportunity to defend his title following a row over his COVID-19 vaccination status, which also saw him banned from entering the country until 2025.

However, he had his visa ban overturned in November and made up for lost time, with his straight-sets win against Tsitsipas also seeing him regain the world number one spot.

Djokovic broke down in tears after sealing victory in a little under three hours and then gave an emotional speech in his on-court interview.

"This has been one of the most challenging tournaments I have ever played in my life considering the circumstances, not playing last year, coming back this year," he said.

"I want to thank all the people who made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable to be in Melbourne and to be in Australia. 

"There is a reason why I have played my best tennis throughout my career in this arena. I try to pinch myself and really live through these moments. 

"It's a long journey. Only the team and the family knows what we have been through in the last four or five weeks.

"I would say this is probably the biggest victory of my life, considering those circumstances. Thank you so much – and hopefully see you next year."

 

Djokovic landed his first Australian Open title 15 years ago and has now won 28 matches in a row at his favourite tournament.

At 35 years, he is the third-oldest male in the Open Era to win the Australian Open singles title after Ken Rosewall and Roger Federer, another of his long-time rivals.

Tsitsipas labelled his opponent as the greatest of all time after the match, and Djokovic also had some kind words to share as he backed the Greek to challenge in more majors.

"Thanks so much for being so kind and respectful," Djokovic said. "On the court we are fierce competitors, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't respect each other.

"I congratulate you on an amazing tournament. Tough luck tonight. This will not be your last grand slam final, you have a lot of time. 

"You are one of the most professional players I know on the tour, and one of the most interesting."

Djokovic, whose 93 ATP titles is the fourth most of any male in the Open Era, added: "I'd like to finish off by commenting something on Greece and Serbia. 

"We are two relatively small countries that don't really have a tennis tradition. We didn't really have players to look up to.

"I think the message for any young tennis player around the world watching this now, dreaming to be where we are now, dream big. Anything is possible. 

"Don't let anyone take away the dream. It doesn't matter where you're coming from. I think the more disadvantaged a childhood you have, the stronger you become.

"We are the proof of that. Don't let anybody take that dream away from you. Water it like you would water the flowers. 

"Even if you can only find one person in the world that supports you, dream big and you can make it."

A year after hitting an all-time low when he lost a court battle in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic was back on top of the world and in floods of tears as he celebrated a record-equalling grand slam triumph on Sunday.

Djokovic endured a nightmare start to 2022 when he was deported from Australia for breaching border entry rules, having arrived in the country believing he had a valid medical exemption that would enable him to play in the first major of the year without being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Serbian superstar suffered the humiliation of flying home after his visa was cancelled and he failed with an appeal in a Federal Court.

He had been consigned to the Park Hotel immigration detention facility during a miserable short stay in a country where he loves playing the most and has experienced unprecedented success.

Djokovic will head home with very different emotions this time around after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets to match Rafael Nadal's tally of 22 major singles titles for a male player.

The 35-year-old was also unable to play in the US Open last September due to not being vaccinated, but normal service was resumed as he claimed a record-extending 10th Australian Open title with a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) triumph.

Djokovic could do nothing to prevent Nadal from lifting the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup 12 months ago, but nothing was going to stop him getting his hands on the trophy on Sunday.

Tsitsipas put up a courageous fight, but one of the all-time greats was a cut above as he continued his astonishing domination of the first major of the year.

Not since Hyeon Chung produced a huge fourth-round upset in 2018 has the Belgrade native been beaten in the Australian Open, this victory extending his winning streak in Melbourne to a staggering 28 matches.

Tsitsipas, 11 years younger than his legendary opponent, declared he was physically and mentally ready for the huge challenge of facing Djokovic in his first Australian Open final.

The third seed from Greece led Djokovic by two sets in his only other major final, but was consigned to defeat in a 2021 French Open thriller.

There was no such drama on this occasion, as the favourite maintained his perfect record in Australian Open finals 15 years after he was first crowned champion at Melbourne Park.

He served brilliantly, once again demonstrated why he is widely regarded as the best returner of all time, and showed no signs of a hamstring injury that was probably the only thing that would have stopped him from securing yet another title.

Djokovic had to contend with questions about his father, Srdjan, posing with a group of men waving Russian flags that have been banned from the grounds during this tournament earlier this week but nothing was going to distract him in his quest to make history.

He was clinical and drowned out noise from rowdy spectators that were ticked off by the chair umpire time and again as he won another battle between youth and experience.

There were 36 winners from king of Rod Laver Arena and only 22 unforced errors, while he ruthlessly took charge of the tie-breaks as Tsitsipas was made to pay for mistakes at such key moments.

Fourth seed Djokovic orchestrated the crowd with his racket after earning two match points and his emotions came out after he climbed up to his box, where he was mobbed by his team.

He sobbed during a long embrace with his mother, Dijana, and dropped to the floor a year after he was floored by being unable to play in a tournament where he has taken on all comers.

Djokovic described this as his biggest victory given what he has had to endure and it lifted him back to the top of the rankings.

It was the 93rd ATP Tour title of his career and came on the back of winning a tournament in Adelaide in a dream start to 2023.

Twelve months after he detained, his rivals were unable to contain him and it would be a surprise if he has not moved beyond Nadal's tally of grand slam triumphs by the end of year.

Novak Djokovic defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in Sunday's final to land a record-extending 10th Australian Open title and draw level with Rafael Nadal on 22 grand slams.

The 35-year-old resisted a fightback from Tsitsipas by saving a set point in the second set on his way to a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) victory at Rod Laver Arena as he made it 10 wins from 10 Melbourne finals.

Djokovic, who was blocked from defending his crown last year after being deported from the country over his COVID-19 vaccination status, dropped just one set across his seven matches and has now won 28 matches in a row in his favourite tournament.

The Serbian consequently reclaims the world number one spot, as well as equalling Nadal for the most singles slams won by a male player.

 

Tsitsipas was aiming to become the 27th male singles champion in the opening major of the year, but he was under relentless pressure right from the off and a double fault in the fourth game handed his opponent the first break of serve.

Djokovic, backed by a crowd that occasionally became too vociferous amid warnings from the umpire, served out the opening set with relative ease and continued to trouble Tsitsipas with some strong serving in the second set.

World number four Tsitsipas slowly grew in confidence and, after a string of unforced errors from Djokovic – who exchanged some strong words with coach Goran Ivanisevic – he forced set point.

But an excellent forehand winner from Djokovic prevented Tsitsipas from levelling up the match, and the Serbian went on to edge the tie-break in what was a big moment in the contest.

He had the occasional blip, with Tsitsipas earning his first break of serve in the opening game of the third set, but Djokovic responded instantly with another backhand winner to level up.

There was little to separate the two in the next 10 games as another set went the distance, and once again it was Djokovic who held his nerve in an entertaining tie-break to wrap up the victory in a time of two hours and 56 minutes.

Novak Djokovic insists his father did not intend to pose for pictures with supporters of Vladimir Putin and is hoping he will be able to attend Sunday's Australian Open final.

Srdjan Djokovic was not present at Rod Laver Arena for his son's 7-5 6-1 6-2 win over Tommy Paul on Friday, which set up a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 62-year-old announced in a statement ahead of the match that he was staying away to avoid creating any "disruption for my son or for the other player".

It comes on the back of Srdjan being pictured standing next to a Russian flag with Putin's face on it, and a man whose t-shirt indicated support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But Novak, who is chasing a 10th grand slam title in Australia and a record-equalling 22nd men's singles major overall, believes the situation has been taken out of context.

"There was no intention," Djokovic said after beating Paul. "You're basically asking me a question like he did it intentionally, like he's not being careful about what he's doing. 

"It can happen to many people what happened to him. He was passing through, made a photo, it has escalated. He was misused in this situation by this group of people. 

"That's what happened. I can't be angry with him or upset because I can say it was not his fault. He went out to celebrate with my fans, and that's it. That's all that happened. 

"After that, of course he felt bad because of me and he knew how that's going to reflect on me, the whole media pressure and everything that's happened in the last 48 hours.

"But it is what it is. You accept it and you move on."

Elaborating on the incident, he said: "The photo that he made, he was passing through. I heard what he said in the video. He said 'cheers'. 

"Unfortunately some of the media has interpreted that in a really wrong way. I'm sorry that that has escalated so much. 

"But I hope people understand that there was absolutely no intention whatsoever to support any kind of war initiatives or anything like that.

"There was a lot of Serbian flags around. That's what he thought. He thought he was making photo with somebody from Serbia. That's it. He moved on."

Asked if he expects his father to be back in the stadium for Sunday's final, Djokovic said: "Let's see. It wasn't pleasant not to have him in the box today. 

"It's a decision that we made together. We just didn't know how things would play out, I guess.

"But yeah, I hope to have him [there for the final]. I hope he's going to be feeling okay to be in the courts because I would like to have him there for the final."

Djokovic argued with the umpire and appeared to completely lose focus as he let a 5-1 lead slip in the opening set, but he responded well en route to a straight-sets victory.

And the Serbian, who has still never lost either a semi-final or a final at the first major of the season, admitted the controversy surrounding his father impacted his performance.

"I saw, as everybody else saw, what happened yesterday," he said. "It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened yesterday has escalated to such a high level. 

"There was, I would say, a lot of conversations with tournament director, with media and everyone else. It has got to me, of course, as well. I was not aware of it until last night. 

"My father, my whole family, and myself, have been through several wars during the 90s. As my father said, we are against the war, we never will support any violence or any war. 

"We know how devastating that is for the family, for people in any country that is going through the war."

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