Djokovic returns with rebuilt serve
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.