Djokovic draws the sting from Tsonga for first Slam

Thirty-four years ago Didier Tsonga crossed the Congo River from his home town of Brazzaville to watch Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman in Kinshasa in the "Rumble in the Jungle". Yesterday he hoped to witness another great moment in sporting history, only to see Novak Djokovic come off the ropes to beat his son, Jo-Wilfried, who bears a striking resemblance to Ali, to the Australian Open title.

Djokovic won 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 to claim his first Grand Slam title and crown a magnificent year of progress, but the lasting memories of the first major of 2008 will be of a 22-year-old Frenchman floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. From the very first day, when he beat Andy Murray in four sets, Tsonga captivated the crowds here with his languid movement, thunderous groundstrokes, exquisite drop volleys and winning smile.

Having beaten four seeded players on the way to his first singles final on the main tour, in only his fifth Grand Slam appearance, the world No 38 sustained his level of performance for one more set before his opponent showed what a resilient competitor he has become. The first Serb to win a Grand Slam men's singles title, Djokovic has proved over the last fortnight that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who between them had won the previous 11 Grand Slam tournaments, are no longer fighting a two-man battle for global supremacy.

Djokovic, nevertheless, had not endeared himself to the locals with his comments about beating both Federer and the crowd in his semi-final and further alienated the spectators here with the length of time he took between points and serves. Tsonga complained, but to no avail. "Between points you're supposed to have 25 seconds," he said after the match. "When it's 40 seconds the umpire should say something."

There was a distinct edge to the atmosphere in Rod Laver Arena and Djokovic's family were unhappy with the behaviour of a group of French fans behind their box. The Police were on hand, but only in the shape of Sting and colleagues following their concert at the Melbourne Cricket Ground the previous evening.

Djokovic, who had failed to take seven set points in losing to Federer in straight sets in his only previous Grand Slam final in New York four months ago, made a nervous start and conceded his first set in the tournament after two sensational points when he served at 4-5 and 30-30. The Serb hit a straightforward smash straight at Tsonga, who responded with a forehand winner across court. On the next point Tsonga reached what looked to be a winning volley and whipped a superb top-spin lob just inside the baseline. The Frenchman went on one knee and pumped his fist in celebration, while his father threw punches into the air.

Djokovic, however, was not about to fall victim to any "rope-a-dope" tactics. The world No 3 picked himself off the floor and at 3-3 in the second set a superb backhand winner down the line off a 132mph serve created break point, which he converted when Tsonga put a forehand out. Djokovic served out to take the set with four successive unreturned serves.

The Serb dominated the third set, breaking serve twice, but the fourth was tight as both men suffered physical difficulties. Tsonga started to show signs of cramp, while Djokovic took a timeout for treatment to a sore hamstring. The Frenchman's last chance came when Djokovic served at 5-5 and 30-40. Having chased down a drop shot, Tsonga chose to go down the line rather than cross-court and the waiting Djokovic put away his volley.

Djokovic dominated the tie-break, which he won 7-2 after Tsonga hit a forehand out. The Serb fell on his back in celebration, kissed the court surface and ran over to celebrate with his parents and two younger brothers, who have supported him throughout the tournament.

Afterwards Djokovic said the feeling of winning a Grand Slam tournament was "indescribable". He added: "I feel relieved because I've reached at least the semi-finals of every Grand Slam in the last year and I was pretty close to winning the US Open. I was a bit nervous at the start because I found myself in the strange situation of being the favourite in a Grand Slam final. It was dangerous, but I managed to cope with the pressure.

"I knew that he would go for his shots. That's where I really needed to calm down and keep my focus. Playing in a Grand Slam final at the US Open obviously gave me a lot of experience, which I used today. In these crucial moments I was probably more patient and more focused, so I think that was one of the turning points."

Tsonga, who had never won more than three matches in succession on the main tour before this tournament, was proud of his performance. "I'm happy for Novak, because he played unbelievably today," he added. "I don't know whether I should be sad or happy, but I feel great."

The Frenchman's tally of 100 aces was the highest of the tournament and he has other reasons for satisfaction. His runner-up's cheque for A$685,000 (£304,952) doubles his career earnings and he will rise to No 18 in today's updated world rankings list. For someone who needed a wild card to play here 12 months ago as the world No 212 that is some achievement.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker