Novak Djokovic says he will carry on coming back to play at the Australian Open so long as he can “perform at the highest level and be one of the candidates to win the Slam”.
Djokovic’s victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday earned him a 10th Australian Open title and drew him level with Rafael Nadal at the top of the all-time men’s standings on 22 Grand Slam titles with all roads now heading to the French Open in the spring.
A triumphant Djokovic paraded the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup around the gardens of Melbourne’s Government House, having added another notch in the plus column for those who argue he is the Greatest Of All Time in the GOAT debate.
“I think results speak enough for themselves, how I feel in Australia, how well I have been playing here over the last 15 years,” said Djokovic.
“In fact it was exactly 15 years ago when I won my first Grand Slam here in Melbourne.
“I will keep coming back as long as I feel that I can perform at the highest level and be one of the candidates to win the Slam.”
Despite a hamstring injury that left him fearing for his chances, Djokovic dropped only one set at Melbourne Park and felt he played some of his best tennis.
At 35, he is showing no sign of slowing up and is back at No 1 in the world rankings, having overtaken Carlos Alcaraz.
“I’m as fierce a competitor as anyone out there,” Djokovic said. “Whether it’s a Grand Slam or any category of any event in the world, I give my best. I don’t like to lose, I do everything I can to win every match that I play and there’s still a lot of that fire in me that is burning for the sport, and for competition.
“That’s what allows me to still push myself to the limit in practice sessions, day in day out after so many years.
“To go through the same routines repetitively is sometimes not so interesting, but I know there’s always a greater goal. A guiding star, so to say, and this trophy is one of those guiding stars. It’s always something that I strive to achieve.”
I had to stay strong and don’t let any outside factors or disturbances distract me on the way to the title and of course, after last year’s events, coming back to Australia, I was curious and more nervous in coming to Australia than usual. You know, how will people receive me, what is the reception that I will get on-and-off the court. Overall, it was a very positive experience and I’m very grateful for that.
How many Grand Slams could Djokovic end up with?
Asked how long he thinks Djokovic can challenge for major titles, his coach Goran Ivanisevic said: “Definitely two, three more years. The way he’s taking care of his body, the way he approaches everything, the food, it’s amazing. It’s unbelievable, the level.”
Former Wimbledon champion Ivanisevic described the 22-22 draw as “like a handball match”, and he expects Djokovic and Nadal to again repel the likes of Tsitsipas, Alcaraz and the other young pretenders in Paris.
“Talking about the young guys, they’re here, it’s great for tennis, great for the future of tennis,” he said. “But you still have these two guys battling. This was Novak’s home court and now we’re going to Rafa’s home court.
“Yes, they are coming – Alcaraz, unbelievable. Still, if Rafa steps on the court at the French Open, for me he’s always the favourite to win the tournament.
“I said eight or nine years ago that Novak and Rafa will go over Roger (Federer). People were looking at me like strangely. But we have 22-22. Two unbelievable competitors, two unbelievable tennis players, what they did for tennis.
“I’m looking forward, honestly, for both of them to be super healthy, then the battle is there. And with the young guys who are going to try to find back doors to sneak and try to do something. But still these two guys, they are going to have the last word to say there.”
Perfect 10 for Djokovic
Djokovic has won 10 of the 20 Grand Slam events (50 per cent) that he has entered since turning 30 in 2017 – four Australian Opens, four Wimbledon titles, a French Open and a US Open
The Serbian appears to be improving with age, having lifted 12 of a possible 40 major trophies (30 per cent) in his 20s
His latest victory at the Australian Open was particularly ominous, coming for the loss of just one set in the whole tournament despite him nursing a hamstring problem
What happens next?
In a best-case scenario, Nadal could return for the next big tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami in March, but may choose to stay off the match courts until his favoured clay. With the pair locked at 22 Grand Slams apiece, it sets up the delicious prospect of a straight fight for outright supremacy at the French Open, beginning on May 28.