Djokovic re­turns with re­built serve

The Timaru Herald - - CATALYST -

No­vak Djokovic is back from six months off the tour with a remodelled ser­vice mo­tion partly in­spired by An­dre Agassi, and a grow­ing con­fi­dence he can nurse his sore right el­bow through the Australian Open.

No man has more Australian Open ti­tles than Djokovic, six in all, and – un­til last year’s shock­ing sec­ond-round exit – had won five of six from 2011 to 2016.

Djokovic is seeded 14th and will be com­ing off just a cou­ple of ex­hi­bi­tion matches to pre­pare for his first-round en­counter against Don­ald Young on Tues­day.

The 12-time ma­jor winner is in the same quar­ter as fourth seed Alexan­der Zverev, fifth seed Do­minic Thiem and 2014 cham­pion Stan Wawrinka, who con­firmed on Satur­day he’d re­turn at Mel­bourne Park from his own six­month lay­off fol­low­ing surgery on his left knee.

They’re all in the same half of the draw as de­fend­ing cham­pion Roger Fed­erer, who last year re­turned from an ex­tended in­jury time out to beat Rafael Nadal in the fi­nal. Fed­erer went on to win Wim­ble­don for his 19th ma­jor and fin­ished the year ranked No 2 be­hind Nadal, who won the French and US Open ti­tles.

That is giv­ing Djokovic some hope.

‘‘Roger and Rafa’s year last year has shown age is just a num­ber, es­pe­cially in Roger’s case,’' Djokovic said at his pre­tour­na­ment news con­fer­ence. ‘‘He’s a great ex­am­ple of some­one that man­ages to take care of him­self, knows how to pre­pare well and peak at the right time.

‘‘He won a cou­ple Grand Slams. Who would pre­dict that af­ter his six months of ab­sence, so ... ev­ery- thing is pos­si­ble re­ally.’'

Djokovic had con­tested 51 con­sec­u­tive Grand Slams un­til he missed last year’s US Open dur­ing his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

Off the court, the 30-year-old Ser­bian said he en­joyed a closer-tonor­mal fam­ily life off the court, in­clud­ing be­ing there when his wife, Je­lena, gave birth to their sec­ond child – a daugh­ter Tara in Septem­ber.

On the court, he used the time to work closely with coaches Agassi and Radek Stepanek to re­fine his ser­vice mo­tion to im­prove the tech­nique and ‘‘re­lease the load from the el­bow, ob­vi­ously some­thing that I have to do be­cause I have the in­jury.’'

Now it’s a less dra­matic, more com­pact swing and he was happy with how it worked in an ex­hi­bi­tion win over Thiem ear­lier in the week.

‘‘It’s not en­tirely dif­fer­ent, but at the be­gin­ning even those small tweaks and changes have made a lot of dif­fer­ence men­tally,’' he said. ‘‘I needed time to kind of get used to that change, un­der­stand whether that’s good or not good for me.’’

Agassi had to mod­ify his own ser­vice mo­tion be­cause of in­jury and had in­put into Djokovic’s re­design.


No­vak Djokovic says Roger Fed­erer’s come­backs from in­jury give him hope for his own readi­ness for the Australian Open.

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