Djokovic plans to dig deeper

No­vak Djokovic isn’t a spent force yet, writes Leo Schlink

The Northern Star - - SPORT -

NO­VAK Djokovic was in the midst of the hottest streak of his ca­reer, sys­tem­at­i­cally stitch­ing to­gether the “Nole Slam.”

By the time the Serb lifted the Mus­ke­teers’ Cup at the French Open in Paris in 2016, he was the holder of all four ma­jors.

It seemed no one on the planet was ca­pa­ble of stretch­ing the base­liner when he was in the zone.

But, be­neath the gleam­ing Djokovic exterior, cracks ap­peared, first emerg­ing in Mel­bourne.

“Ex­actly two years ago, 2016 Australian Open was when the prob­lem with the el­bow started,” Djokovic said.

“At that time, it wasn’t as bad so I was man­ag­ing it.

“But I played for prac­ti­cally a year and a half with it and I de­cided not to talk about it be­cause I don’t want to talk about in­juries.

“Or make ex­cuses and dis­cred­it­ing other guys who win matches.

“It wasn’t pleas­ant and it was ac­tu­ally get­ting worse.

“Along the road, I had other is­sues.

“But I’m not the only one. Ev­ery ath­lete on this planet has to some de­gree some sort of in­jury and when I look back I don’t re­gret any­thing.”

Fol­low­ing the high point of Paris two years ago, Djokovic’s ef­fec­tive­ness waned.

One by one, the four ma­jors were wrenched away but not Djokovic’s sense of perspective.

“Ev­ery­thing in life hap­pens for a rea­son,” he said.

“My wife in Septem­ber



gave birth to our sec­ond child and I could be there with her and with our chil­dren spend five months with­out sep­a­rat­ing.

“Those are the beau­ti­ful things of life.

“So I try to see it al­ways from the bright side and take things from that way.

“Ob­vi­ously I missed ten­nis (when he was side­lined for six months last year).

“I’d never skipped a grand slam, so it was strange.

“At the same time, it was fan­tas­tic.”

Look­ing ahead to Mon­day’s Open where he chases a record sev­enth crown, Djokovic has cast an eye to fa­mil­iar foes Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“What these two guys have done for the sport, on and off the court, is in­cred­i­ble,” he said.

“They have di­rectly in­flu­enced my suc­cess, my ca­reer be­cause they have been the great­est chal­lenges that I’ve had on the jour­ney to be­ing the best player in the world.

“They have in­spired me to look deeper, to dip deeper in­side my­self, to un­der­stand what it takes to de­throne these guys.

“For many of us that know Roger and Rafa, it wasn’t a huge sur­prise what they did in 2017 (win all four ma­jors be­tween them).

“Roger is prov­ing that age is just a num­ber and if you look af­ter your body and mind, you’re fresh, you’re in­spired and you’re mo­ti­vated, you have a bal­anced life, that’s what hap­pens. “His qual­ity is un­doubted. “He’s one of the best play­ers to play the game.

“Rafa is right there with Roger, toe to toe.”

World No.1 Nadal opens against Vic­tor Estrella Bur­gos, while de­fend­ing cham­pion and sec­ond seed Federer plays Slove­nia’s Al­jaz Be­dene in the first round.

Djokovic avoided ma­jor trou­ble, land­ing Don­ald Young (world No.61) in the opener, but could face French star Gael Mon­fils in the sec­ond round.


BACK FROM IN­JURY: Six-time Australian Open cham­pion No­vak Djokovic.

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