MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic claimed a dramatic triumph at the Australian Open when he defeated unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 in Sunday's final.
Sealed with a kiss: Djokovic clutches the trophy after clinching his first Grand Slam triumph in Melbourne.
Djokovic's first Grand Slam victory gave his country its first 'major' triumph, but he had to battle all the way against surprise package Tsonga who enjoyed the support of the crowd.
The 20-year-old Djokovic had not lost a set in six matches including his stunning success against hat-trick chasing holder Roger Federer in the semifinals.
But with Muhammad Ali lookalike Tsonga coming out swinging as he did in his straight-sets upset over second seed Rafael Nadal in their last-four clash, that streak came to a sudden end when the Frenchman broke twice to take the opener in 49 minutes.
The 20-year-old Djokovic rebounded in the second and third sets and after saving a crucial breakpoint in the fourth, clinched his first major at the 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."
He is the youngest player to win the title since Stefan Edberg defeated Mats Wilander in 1985 -- and as well as Tsonga, the Serb also had to overcome cramps.
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 his rival four championship points.
Djokovic only needed one as Tsonga hit a forehand wide -- and the relief was there for all to see.
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 at the presentation. "Thank you very much, I love you.
"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, was playing his fifth Grand Slam tournament and had never previously gone beyond the fourth round.
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.
Instead it was Djokovic who made the headlines. "I am so proud of myself and to be the first Serbian who won the Grand Slam title," he said. "I think it will be a crazy house back in Serbia in my country, I love you guys." E-mail to a friend