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Darren Walton

Stressed Djokovic still the Open favourite

Despite his Australian Open record, Novak Djokovic still feels pressure heading into the final. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

For all his accomplishments, Novak Djokovic admits he's still feeling the heat as he strives to cap the most tumultuous 12 months of his decorated career with a remarkable 10th Australian Open title, record-equalling 22nd grand slam crown and return to world No.1.

After winning a reprieve from the federal government just to be allowed back into Australia following his dramatic deportation last year, Djokovic has overcome injury, yet more controversy and six hungry opponents to reach a record-extending 33rd grand slam singles final in Melbourne.

The 35-year-old father of two faces Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday night feeling "privileged" to be back on Rod Laver Arena - where the super Serb has won 27 straight matches stretching back to 2018 - but is taking nothing for granted.

"Look, the final stages of a slam at this stage of my career, I know every single grand slam is a golden opportunity for me to try to get another trophy," Djokovic said.

"I don't know how many more I'll have, opportunities. Of course I feel it. I feel pressure. I feel stress as any other player. I feel nerves. I feel excitement. There's a lot of different emotions that I go through."

As well as being denied the chance to compete at the 2022 AO, Djokovic was banned from the US Open, and several other big events in America, for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 and not awarded rankings points for winning his seventh Wimbledon crown because of the All England Club's refusal to allow Russians and Belarusians to play.

Yet he can still usurp injured Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz from the top of the rankings with victory over Tsitsipas after proving he's still the most dominant force in men's tennis by landing five more titles, including the showpiece season-ending championship, during a heavily disrupted 2022 campaign.

Tsitsipas will also rise to world No.1, for the first time, if he claims a maiden grand slam title in a truly high-stakes Open climax.

But the 24-year-old will need to reverse a run of nine consecutive defeats to Djokovic, who leads the pair's overall career series 10-2.

Djokovic denied Tsitsipas in the 2021 French Open final and feels quietly confident he'll have his Monte Carlo neighbour's measure again.

"I know his game pretty well. He knows my game well. I know what's ahead of me, and I'm excited," Djokovic said.

"Fortunately for me at this stage of my career, because of all the achievements, it is always basically every match or every tournament there is always something on the line, particularly when the grand slams are played.

"Of course, I'm privileged to be in this position, and I'm hoping for the best."

Despite his poor head-to-head record against Djokovic, Tsitsipas says he "couldn't be more ready for this moment" after winning all 10 of his matches so far this year.

"This is a very humbling opportunity for me. Being in the finals here means a lot," he said.

"Having started here as one of my first junior grand slams, and being now in the finals of the men's event, is as important as my very first steps that I took on the tennis court.

"I'm going to grasp this opportunity and get myself ready for this big day."

Confident the hamstring injury that troubled him in the early rounds is behind him, Djokovic also hopes to have his father Srdjan back in his courtside box after watching his son's semi-final win over Tommy Paul offsite.

Srdjan Djokovic said he didn't mean to offend after a video emerged showing him posing at the Open with fans holding Russian flags.

"My father, my whole family, and myself, have been through several wars during the '90s. We are against war," said the nine-times champion.

"I hope he's going to be feeling okay to be in the courts because I would like to have him there for the finals."

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