Djokovic plans to dig deeper
Novak Djokovic isn’t a spent force yet, writes Leo Schlink
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
EVERY ATHLETE ON THIS PLANET HAS TO SOME DEGREE SOME SORT OF INJURY
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.