Abu Dhabi: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is of the view he has stopped prioritising success on the tennis court for the “sake of success only” and he now has a “different vision” for tennis all together.
But having said that, the Serb’s game has not lost its sheen as he ended the 2018 season in top form by winning Wimbledon, the US Open as well as in Cincinnati and Shanghai.
He is still the man to beat and with the first Grand Slam of the forthcoming season — the Australian Open — just around the corner, a fully fit Djoko is a strong threat to other top stars Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
“It was all about success probably until about five years ago. For me, tennis is more of a platform now for other things — for the values that I want to share and the messages that I want to give out to the young generation,” said Djokovic, while speaking ahead of the Mubadala Tennis Championship in the capital on Thursday.
Djokovic, who at one point last season had a 22-match win streak before losing to German Alexander Zverev in the final of the ATP World Tour Finals in London, feels being on the tennis court gives him all the necessary thrills and spills that helps him to know himself better and throws him all sorts of challenges.
“The tennis court for me is a place where I get challenged in every possible way — emotionally and physically,” he said. “My character is kind of on the line, so I treat it as my own personal school of life. Not many places can trigger me, positively or negatively, like a tennis court does. I see it as a place where I can grow, regardless of where I’m in the world. It demands a lot of extreme focus and dedication from me and there are outbursts of emotions that I didn’t know that I had. That’s the reason why I’m grateful to play this sport.”
Djokovic went on to reveal that the Australian Open is his favourite Slam given the success he has had there. A record six titles and he has never lost once he has reached the final Down Under.
“The Australian Open is a tournament where you want to shine and give your best,” the Serb said. “I’m really looking forward to the Australian Open because that is where I have had my most successful Grand Slam. I know I have not had a good time in the last couple of years, that great of a performance. I was injured and going through physical difficulties. But I’m fit this time and back to No. 1 in the world; playing good tennis in the last six months. Hopefully, I will be able to transfer that in to success at the Australian Open.”
Djokovic will be well aware that he will be challenged by defending champion Federer, Nadal — the man who Djokovic dethroned from the No. 1 slot — and the former member for the fab-four — Andy Murray coming back following a hip surgery.
Nadal, who has fully recovered from his right knee injury that forced him to pull out of the US Open semis in September, too was confident of being 100 per cent fit ahead of the Australian Open where he would be chasing his 18th Grand Slam title.
“The body’s holding good. I’m happy to be back,” he said. “It’s a new season and I have to take care of my body. Coming after a surgery, I have to go step-by-step. But I’m here and ready for the new season.”
Nadal has repeatedly surprised everyone whenever he has returned from an injury layoff.
The Spaniard, while revealing the secret of his tremendous fighting qualities and zeal to come out of career threatening injuries, said: “It’s just that I try hard. I try to be ready for what’s coming. The second part of the season was tough last year because of the injuries. But that happens and that is very much a part of my tennis career too. I know coming back is hard. I just try to stay calm and work the right way.
“I know things won’t be easy. When you are making a comeback there will be tough feelings, there will be pains in the body that you normally don’t have. I don’t have to ask myself for big things in the beginning. I just have to be positive with every improvement and that way you get to the right point.”