ADELAIDE, Australia (Reuters) -Novak Djokovic dug deep to save a match point on the way to a battling 6-7(8) 7-6(3) 6-4 victory over Sebastian Korda in the Adelaide International 1 final on Sunday ahead of this month’s Australian Open.
A day after he overwhelmed Daniil Medvedev in the semi-final despite sustaining a hamstring injury, Djokovic moved freely on court but was pushed hard by Korda before the Serb made a late charge to deny his opponent a potentially career-defining win.
“I hope you enjoyed the show tonight,” Djokovic said. “I want to say a few words to Seb and his team. Amazing tournament, amazing effort today. I’ll probably say that you were closer to the victory today than I was.
“The future is bright for you so just keep going.”
Korda broke for a 5-4 lead in a tense first set and was 40-0 up on serve when Djokovic hit back to level the scores, but the world number five came undone in the tiebreak as the American soaked up the pressure to convert his seventh set point.
A fuming Djokovic yelled at and banished two members of his entourage from their courtside seats before the second set, in which he uncharacteristically struggled with his returns to allow Korda to dominate the rallies.
But with the crowd behind him on his return to Australia after his deportation last year due to his unvaccinated coronavirus status, Djokovic raised his game to save a match point before forcing a tiebreak which the top seed won.
Djokovic held for a 5-4 lead in the final set and the 35-year-old closed out victory with a break of serve as Korda finally felt the pressure and double-faulted before making two errors.
Djokovic thanked his team for tolerating him in good and bad times.
“Today I’m sure they didn’t have a blast with me going back and forth with them,” Djokovic said before addressing the crowd. “It definitely felt like playing at home. You guys made me feel very welcome, so thank you.”
Victory also helped Djokovic go level with his great rival Rafa Nadal on 92 ATP singles titles in the open era, with only Ivan Lendl (94), Roger Federer (103) and Jimmy Connors (109) ahead of the duo.
Djokovic is bidding for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title at the Jan. 16-29 tournament to draw level with Nadal on 22 Grand Slam titles.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)