Djokovic in nostal­gic mood at ‘Happy Slam’

Sport360 - - Australian Open - By Staff Re­porter @Sport360 ✉ ed­i­to­[email protected]

bWorld num­ber one No­vak Djokovic has re­vealed his fond­ness for the Aus­tralian Open, say­ing the tour­na­ment kick­started his sto­ried ca­reer when he won his first ma­jor in Mel­bourne more than a decade ago.

Per­haps prompted by Andy Mur­ray’s shock an­nounce­ment that this year’s ap­pear­ance Down Un­der will be his last, Djokovic al­lowed him­self to wax nostal­gic about the sea­son-open­ing Grand Slam.

His break­through came against French­man Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga in 2008 and he has won the ti­tle five more times since, most re­cently against Mur­ray in 2016.

“It was my first ma­jor tro­phy, that ob­vi­ously served as a great spring­board for my ca­reer,” said the Serb, who has 14 ma­jors in the tro­phy cab­i­net.

“It opened a lot of doors for me. It al­lowed me to be­lieve in my­self that I can ac­tu­ally win the big­gest tour­na­ments in the world, chal­lenge the best play­ers in the world.”

Top seed Djokovic, who launches his cam­paign for a record sev­enth crown against Amer­i­can Mitchell Krueger on Tues­day, said he also en­joyed strong sup­port from Mel­bourne’s large Serb com­mu­nity.

But the 31-year-old said all fans in Aus­tralia cre­ated a spe­cial at­mos­phere.

“They call it the Happy Slam for a rea­son,” he said.

“There’s a lot of good vibe, good buzz around the city. Peo­ple of Aus­tralia love sport, nur­ture the sport val­ues. They love their ten­nis, as well.”

Djokovic closed out last sea­son mag­nif­i­cently, mak­ing an as­ton­ish­ing climb back from out­side the world’s top 20 in June, win­ning Wim­ble­don and the US Open on the way to re­claim­ing the num­ber one rank­ing in Novem­ber.

It was a con­trast to the way he started the year in Mel­bourne, where a sorry last-16 exit at the hands of South Ko­rea’s Chung Hyeon was fol­lowed by el­bow surgery and a string of early tour­na­ment ex­its.

It al­lowed me to be­lieve in my­self that I can win the big­gest tour­na­ments in the world – Djokovic on Aus Open

Fun in the sun: No­vak Djokovic.

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