Stefanos Tsitsipas will meet Serbian Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final on Sunday, January 29 in an all-Christian Orthodox match.
Tsitsipas will compete for his first Grand Slam championship and the No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking after defeating Karen Khachanov in the Australian Open semi-finals 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 on Friday.
Djokovic, for his part, defeated American T. Paul in straight sets 7-5, 6-1, 6-2.
Djokovic was spotted sporting a simple wooden crucifix during the French Open in 2021. Following his thrilling semi-final victory over Rafael Nadal, Djokovic raised his arms in appreciation.
For him, his religious views take precedence over the numerous titles he’s received since the start of his career.
“This is the most significant title of my life,” he declared in April 2011, after receiving the order of St. Sava in the first degree from the hands of Irenaeus, the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The Order of St. Sava is the highest honor in the Serbian Orthodox Church, and it was bestowed upon him specifically for his financial contributions to the rebuilding of holy facilities in his native Serbia.
As a devout Christian who grew up in a nation filled with violence — the war between Bosnia and Herzegovina lasted from 1992 to 1995 — Novak Djokovic has never forgotten his roots.
And this will undoubtedly please his wife Jelena, whom he began seeing in 2005, while they were both students at Belgrade High School.
They married in July 2014, and their two children are Stefan (3 years old) and Tara (2 years old) (4 months old). We can see their house as a great place to learn not just tennis but also charity.
To return to Tsitsipas, he has a Greek father and a Russian mother. And he feels that being a product of two distinct cultures is the foundation for his meteoric tennis career.
“It was really significant for me to come from a second background, to have two distinct cultures, Greek and Russian, participating in my life,” Tsitsipas explained. “It gave me a completely new perspective on things.”
When he returned to the game, he appeared to be on track for his sixth straight-sets win in a row, but this was complicated by a late Khachanov charge.
At 5-4 in the third set, the first-time Melbourne semi-finalist stopped Tsitsipas’ effort to serve out the match. In the tie-break, he saved two match opportunities with brave forehand wins, beginning a run of four points to take the set.
However, much like he did after failing to serve out the first set, the Greek replied by taking a 3-0 lead in the final set and advancing.
“I thought about how hard I’ve worked to get here, and it takes a little bit more,” Tsitsipas said of his mindset heading into the fourth set. “I wasn’t able to produce that in the third set, but I was very near.
“It’s one of those times that pays off fairly nicely if you stick around, if you devote yourself even more, and if you concentrate on these critical moments even more.
“And having that ambience somewhere in the background feels so fantastic when I’m able to strike the ball and get such a reward back from the crowd.”
In Sunday’s final match, the third seed will face either nine-time winner Novak Djokovic or unseeded American Tommy Paul. If it is the Serbian across the net, the duo will face off in a straight shootout for World No. 1 in a reprise of Djokovic’s five-set victory in the 2021 Roland Garros final.
“These are the times I’ve been preparing for. To be able to play finals like this, but finals with greater significance than simply a final,” he added during his on-court interview.
“It’s a Grand Slam final, I’m battling for the No. 1 place. It’s a childhood aspiration to one day hold the No. 1 place. I’m almost there. This is a significant location, therefore I’m glad that this opportunity has come to Australia rather than somewhere else.
“Let’s do it, boys!” he said, addressing the Rod Laver Arena audience that has fueled his comeback. “All right, let’s go!”