Men’s world number one Novak Djokovic has praised Ashleigh Barty for winning her first Australian Open title.
Djokovic, who has won nine times in Melbourne and has a 100 percent record in finals at the tournament, was forbidden from competing this year because he remains unvaccinated against coronavirus.
The Serbian had initially been permitted entry to the country but saw the decision overturned upon his arrival. This led to his deportation and a three-year ban from returning to Australia.
In the build-up to the event, Djokovic was seen as the strong favourite to win a record-breaking 21st major title, bus his absence paved the way for Rafael Nadal to string together a remarkable run.
The Spaniard almost retired a matter of months ago with a foot injury and had competed just once in five months ahead of the competition.
Yet the 35-year-old showed incredible mental resolve –– battling back from two sets down in the final against Daniil Medvedev to move clear of Djokovic and Roger Federer in terms of Slam victories.
Meanwhile, Barty also made history in the Women’s Singles –– becoming the first Australian since 1978 to win in Melbourne.
Barty’s title was her third Grand Slam win, following her victory at Wimbledon last year and the French Open in 2019.
Yet, this was by far the most satisfying and impressive of these major wins. Across seven matches, Barty failed to drop a set and showed a sense of invincibility not seen since the prime years of Serena Williams last decade.
Despite Djokovic’s dramatic exclusion from the competition, the Serbian posted congratulatory messages to both Nadal and Barty on social media.
Taking to Twitter, the 20-time Slam winner wrote: “There has been some outstanding tennis played at this year’s #AusOpen and the finals were exceptional. Congratulations to [Ash Barty] for an amazing performance in front of her home crowd and to Danielle Collins for an incredible tournament.”
The Serb also added: “Congratulations to Rafael Nadal for [his] 21st GS [Grand Slam]. Amazing achievement. Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time. Enhorabuena [Medvedev] gave it his all out there and played with the passion and determination we have come to expect from him.”
Both Barty and Nadal are likely to compete at Roland-Garros and could well back up their Australian Open wins with back-to-back Slam victories.
On the other hand, it’s still unclear whether Djokovic will compete at the French Open as he seeks a 21st major title of his own.