Djokovic, Sharapova Slam Grand Wins

APSerbia's Novak Djokovic returning to France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during his win in Sunday's Australian Open final.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Novak Djokovic withstood a first-set barrage from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, then powered his way to his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open Sunday. A day earlier, Maria Sharapova capped off her dream run in this year's tournament to beat Ana Ivanovic in the women's final.

No. 3-ranked Djokovic fended off Muhammad Ali lookalike Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6, ending a sequence of 11 straight majors won by either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal since Marat Safin's triumph here in 2005.

Djokovic, 20, had not lost a set in six matches leading into the final, including his semifinal win over two-time defending champion Federer.

But with unseeded Tsonga coming out swinging like he did in his straight-sets upset over No. 2 Nadal in the semifinals and three other top 14 players, that streak came to a sudden end.

Djokovic rebounded in the second and third sets and after saving a crucial breakpoint in the fourth, dominated the tiebreaker to clinch his first major at his 13th attempt.

"You feel the expectations and pressure, so I'm very happy with the way I dealt with the pressure," Djokovic said. "Coming on against a player with nothing to lose -- he was going for the shots and he was very dangerous, especially in the first set -- I was pretty nervous."

Djokovic was the youngest player since Stefan Edberg defeated Mats Wilander in 1985 to win the Australian Open title and the first man from Serbia to win a major.

Tsonga, who had been so aggressive earlier in the tournament, seemed more content to rally from the baseline, especially after getting passed several times.

Both players had to fight off cramp.

Djokovic got treatment on the back of his left thigh while holding for a 3-2 lead in the fourth set, then fended off a break point while serving at 5-5.

Wanting to finish it off quickly, he raced through the tiebreaker -- with some help from Tsonga, who double-faulted to make it 5-1 and then sent a running forehand long to give Djokovic four championship points.

He only needed one as Tsonga hit a forehand wide.

Djokovic fell on his back, then got up to shake hands with Tsonga and put his arm around the Frenchman. He got on his knees and kissed the court, shook hands with his family, then tossed two rackets into the stands before burying his face in a towel.

"First, before I thank everybody in this world, I want to thank everybody in my box, who've supported me all the way through, not just these two weeks, all the way in my life," Djokovic said. "Thank you very much, I love you."

His father, mother and two younger brothers wore white tracksuits and sat in order with letters on the front spelling out Djokovic's nickname, Nola.

"Second of course Jo. Unbelievable tournament and you should be proud of yourself -- if he won tonight it would be absolutely deserved, so well done for his success."

Djokovic, who has had a hot and cold relationship with the Melbourne Park crowd, won them back over again in his post-match speech.

"I know the crowd wanted him to win more," he said of Tsonga. "That's OK, it's all right. I still love you guys, don't worry.

"I'm very, very happy that I won my first Grand Slam here, so hopefully we'll see you here on this stage a lot more often in the future."

Tsonga, ranked 38th coming into his fifth major, will move up to No. 18 after advancing past the fourth round for the first time.

He was aiming to be the first Frenchman in 80 years to win the Australian title and the first to win any of the four Grand Slams since Yannick Noah's win at Roland Garros in 1983.

Rod Laver Arena was packed and awash in red, white and blue, the national colors of both countries, but there was little doubt where the rowdy crowd's loyalties lay -- with underdog Tsonga, who has delighted the Melbourne Park fans with his ebullient personality and go-for-broke style.

A portrait of Ali, a racket sketched in one hand, was taped to a wall, and Tsonga sprinted onto the court for warmups.

Djokovic, who had complained after his semifinal victory over Federer that he had to fight two opponents because of the overwhelming support for the Swiss star, was at it again, frequently turning toward a pocket of chanting Serbian fans to get them fired up after he fired winners.

Djokovic refused to crumble. He never faced a break point in the second and third sets, yielding only 10 points in his nine service games.

Djokovic said he didn't know where he would go next, but planned to spend a couple of weeks enjoying the celebrations.

"It's my first major, but it's just the start of a long season," he said.

A year after being on the wrong end of one of the most-lopsided losses in a Grand Slam final, Sharapova wrapped up her third major title Saturday with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over fourth-seeded Ana Ivanovic.

The Russian didn't drop a set in seven matches at Melbourne Park, including wins over three of the top four ranked players, erasing 12 months of painful memories in the wake of her 6-1, 6-2 loss to Serena Williams last year.

After Ivanovic sprayed a forehand wide on match point, Sharapova dropped to her knees and appeared to be fighting back tears as she waved and blew kisses to the crowd.

Then she dropped her racket in her chair before heading to shake hands and exchange high-fives with her father and supporters.

She told the Rod Laver Arena crowd that she'd received a text message from tennis great Billie Jean King telling her that 'Champions take chances and pressure is a privilege.'

"I took mine," Sharapova said.

Sharapova, 20, wished her mother, Yelena, a happy birthday and told her how she planned to spend some of her 1,370,000 Australian dollars ($1,207,790) prize money.

"With this big fat check, I'm going to send you a bunch of roses," she said. "Last year I lost on her birthday and this year I said I'm going to make it up to her, and I did."

Ivanovic is projected to rise to No. 2 in the rankings despite the loss, while Sharapova will remain at No. 5 when the new list is released next week.

Sharapova leads their head-to-heads 3-2, avenging a straight-sets loss to the Serbian player in the French Open semifinals last year.

Ivanovic, also 20, is 0-2 in Grand Slam finals after losing the French Open championship match to Henin.

"I'm very emotional and you guys made it a very special experience for me," she told the crowd as tears welled in her eyes. Ivanovic said she expected more big Grand Slam encounters between she and Sharapova in future.

"I really feel I'm also improving my game and I'm learning how to be a top player. These situations help me," she said. "So I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities to play against each other in the final of a Grand Slam."

Sharapova was aggressive from the start and, apart from one bad service game in the first set that allowed Ivanovic back to 4-4, controlled the important points against a Serbian player for the second consecutive match.

She beat No. 3 Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals after ending top-ranked Justine Henin's 32-match winning streak in the quarterfinals.

Sharapova set up triple match point and waited patiently as Ivanovic saved two before the Russian could add to her titles at Wimbledon in 2004 and the 2006 U.S. Open.

On a hot, sunny day with temperatures touching 34 degrees Celsius, people in the crowd were fanning themselves, and Sharapova retreated to the shade behind the baselines to gather herself between points.

Both players showed some nerves in the first set, with Ivanovic particularly shaky, committing 19 unforced errors to just six winners.

Serving at 2-2, Ivanovic set up double break point with a double fault, then sent a forehand long.

After holding serve the first three times at love, Sharapova returned the favor, committing three double faults while serving at 4-3, the last two at deuce to hand the game to Ivanovic.

But she shrugged off the setback, running off the last three games, breaking to go ahead 6-5, then pumping her fist and shouting "Go Maria! Come on!" Taking every second possible between points, Sharapova then held at love.

From 3-3 in the second set, Sharapova ran off the last three games again, breaking Ivanovic twice.

The advice from King, who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, was a great help, Sharapova said.

"When I was playing junior tennis she'd turn up and talk to my parents and give them advice and talk to me," Sharapova said. "I woke up this morning to her text ... I had those great words in my mind during the match."

In Sunday's mixed doubles final, fifth seeds Tiantian Sun (China)

and Nenad Zimonjic (Serbia) beat unseeded Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi of India 7-6, 6-4.

In Saturday's men's doubles final, eighth seeds Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel beat seventh seeds Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra of France, 7-5, 7-6.

In Friday's women's doubles final, unseeded Alona Bondarenko and

Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine beat twelfth seeds Victoria Azarenka Bulgaria and Shahar Peer of Israel 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.