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Djokovic, Tsitsipas set up showdown for No. 1 in Australian Open final

At the 2022 U.S. Open, Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud did not simply battle for their first Grand Slam title. That final at Flushing Meadows was also a winner-take-all affair for the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings.

The story is a similar one heading into Sunday’s Australian Open championship match. Whoever wins between Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas will not only lift the Norman Brooks Challenge Cup but also climb to world No. 1. Of course, that wouldn’t be anything new for Djokovic. The 35-year-old holds the all-time ATP record for most weeks spent atop the rankings at 373. For Tsitsipas, however, it would mark his first time as the king of the tour–just as it was for Alcaraz last summer and just as it would have been for Ruud had the Norwegian defeated the Spaniard in New York.

“I like that number,” Tsitsipas said of No. 1 during his on-court interview following Friday’s 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 semifinal victory over Karen Khachanov. “It’s all about you; it’s singular. These are the moments I’ve been working hard for, to be able to play in finals like this, that have a bigger meaning than just the final. It’s a childhood dream to be capturing that No. 1 spot one day. I’m close. I’m happy that this opportunity comes here in Australia, because this is a place of significance. Let’s do it guys. Let’s go!

“I did finish as a junior No. 1,” he added. “Now I want to do it in the men’s side, in the men’s professional tennis.”

To get there he will have to take down the most dominant player in the history of the Australian Open men’s singles competition. Djokovic has won 21 major titles overall, nine of which have come in Melbourne. The Serb extended his match winning streak at this tournament to 27 with his 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 rout of Tommy Paul on Friday night.

“Of course it [adds extra significance],” Djokovic said of No. 1 also being at stake in addition to another slam triumph. “Winning Grand Slams and being the No. 1 in the world are probably the two biggest peaks that you can climb as a professional tennis player. Let’s see what happens.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.