Serb chan­nels Bond for his­tory bid Down Un­der

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By REUTERS in Melbourne

No­vak Djokovic has no pre­ten­sions to be­ing a su­per spy but the num­ber 007 has got the Aus­tralian Open cham­pion “pumped” ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam.

The 29-year-old Serb joined Roy Emer­son as the most suc­cess­ful men’s cham­pion at the Aus­tralian Open last year when he beat Andy Mur­ray for his sixth ti­tle at Melbourne Park.

Seven, how­ever, has a nice sound to it, the for­mer world No 1 said on Thurs­day.

“007, Why not? Maybe this is the year. Seven in 17. I’m not a nu­merol­o­gist but it sounds good,” a laugh­ing Djokovic told the tour­na­ment’s web­site on Thurs­day.

“In terms of my feel­ings of com­ing to Melbourne, the last five or six years it has been pretty much the same. I am very pumped to do well.”

Do­ing well and Djokovic go hand-in-hand in Melbourne.

In re­cent years he has made the blue hard­courts near the cen­ter of the city his own, win­ning the men’s ti­tle five times in the last six years since 2011.

Such has been his dom­i­nance since he won his maiden Grand Slam in Aus­tralia in 2008, he has lost only three times at Melbourne Park.

All were in the quar­ter­fi­nals, with the 2014 loss com­ing at the hands of even­tual cham­pion Stan Wawrinka.

Ev­ery time he has made the fi­nal, he has won.

In four of those fi­nals he has beaten cur­rent world No 1 Mur­ray, who he also bet­tered in a scin­til­lat­ing fi­nal in Doha last week­end.

Mur­ray, who was knighted in the New Year, had a phe­nom­e­nal sec­ond half of 2016.

It in­cluded clinch­ing his sec­ond Wim­ble­don ti­tle and suc­cess­fully de­fend­ing his Olympic gold medal in Rio as Djokovic’s sea­son dra­mat­i­cally fell off af­ter he beat the Scot in the French Open fi­nal at Roland Gar­ros.

The Bri­ton’s strong form vaulted him to the top of the world rank­ings, mean­ing Djokovic is not the top seed at the sea­son-open­ing slam for the first time since 2014.

“Andy de­serves to be No 1,” Djokovic said. “He had a tremen­dous last six months of 2016.

“This year we have al­ready played a thrilling match and I am look­ing for­ward to our ri­valry.

“Con­sid­er­ing the mem­o­ries I have and the re­sults in the past I am re­ally look­ing for­ward to be­ing back again. I’m not the only one who is ex­cited but it does give me goose bumps to come back (and) ... I’m feel­ing phe­nom­e­nal.”

Tough start

Djokovic drew a dif­fi­cult first-round op­po­nent in Fer­nando Ver­dasco, while Roger Fed­erer’s fall in the rank­ings com­pli­cated his chances at Melbourne Park as he ended up in same quar­ter as topranked Mur­ray, No 5 Kei Nishikori and No 10 To­mas Berdych.

The of­fi­cial draw for the sea­son’s first ma­jor was held on Fri­day and de­liv­ered an awk­ward op­po­nent for Djokovic. Ver­dasco up­set fel­low Spa­niard Rafael Nadal in the first round here last year, and had five match points be­fore los­ing to Djokovic in the semi­fi­nals at Doha last week­end.

Fed­erer had surgery on his left knee last Fe­bru­ary af­ter reach­ing the Aussie Open semi­fi­nals and, af­ter end­ing his record run of 65 con­secu- tive ma­jors by skip­ping the French Open, spent the sec­ond half of 2016 on the side­lines re­cov­er­ing af­ter a semi­fi­nal exit at Wim­ble­don.

The 35-year-old 17-time Grand Slam win­ner slipped to No 16 in the year-end rank­ings, and dropped a fur­ther spot this week to be seeded 17 th af­ter Grigor Dim­itrov beat Nishikori in the Bris­bane International fi­nal last Sun­day and moved up to No 15.

Un­less there’s a huge up­set in his opener, Fed­erer will play qual­i­fiers in the first two rounds, then po­ten­tially for­mer Wim­ble­don fi­nal­ist Berdych in the third round and 2014 US Open fi­nal­ist Nishikori in the fourth round.

Mur­ray, who has lost five Aus­tralian Open fi­nals, won nine ti­tles in 2016 in­clud­ing Wim­ble­don, the Olympic tour­na­ment and the sea­son-end­ing ATP Tour Fi­nals to re­place Djokovic in the year-end No 1 spot.

He will play Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko in the first round and has a po­ten­tial third round against Amer­i­can world No 31 Sam Quer­rey, who up­set Djokovic at the same stage last year at Wim­ble­don.

US Open cham­pion Stan Wawrinka is on the bot­tom of the same half of the draw.

No 2-ranked Djokovic is in the other half and has No 4 Do­minic Thiem, No 11 David Gof­fin and No 15 Dim­itrov in his quar­ter.

Nadal and third-ranked Mi­los Raonic are in the top quar­ter on that side of the draw.


No­vak Djokovic (right) gets some bowl­ing tips from for­mer Aus­tralian crick­eter Shane Warne dur­ing a pro­mo­tional event for the Aus­tralian Open at Melbourne Park on Wed­nes­day.

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