A series of milestones and records potentially awaits Novak Djokovic as he embarks on his journey for another title at the Australian Open.
Djokovic, who downed Rafael Nadal in straight sets during last year’s Melbourne final, could start setting new milestones in his career from the onset of the tournament. A first round win would make him only the sixth player in history to have recorded 900 or more victories on the tour. Although that isn’t the milestone he is after with eyes firmly set on a record eighth Australian Open title. In what would be his 17th grand slam title, which is three behind Roger Federer’s all-time record.
Ahead of the first major of 2020, Djokovic spoke to reporters in Melbourne Park about an array of topics on Sunday. Here is what Ubitennis learned from the Serbian.
1. How he is still winning big titles at his age
Since turning 30, Djokovic has already won four grand slam titles. The second highest tally in men’s tennis. Part of this is linked to the trend of players playing later in their careers, however, the 32-year-old believes one of the key factors for him is being able to find the right balance between his private and personal life.
“Roger has talked about this as well, Rafa as well, that age is just a number. It’s not just a cliche, but it’s really something that I feel like the three of us have in common. It’s really the way we approach career and our everyday life,” Djokovic said.
“I think we found a way, a formula, to balance private (and) professional life, so we are able to kind of excel in tennis and still be able to compete at the highest level after many years, still be motivated, still be mentally fresh and, of course, physically prepared and fit to compete in best-of-five-sets with young players that are coming up.”
Undoubtedly another driving force for the former world No.1 is his rivalry within the Big Three. A group that also comprises of Federer and Rafael Nadal. Between them, they have won every grand slam tournament since 2017. Djokovic currently has a winning head-to-head record against both players. Leading Federer 26-23 and Nadal 29-26.
“I mentioned many times before that the three of us have inspired each other throughout our rivalries and careers to be better, to understand how we can overcome obstacles in the matchups that we have against each other or anything else really that followed our careers.” He explained.
“I am more grateful today to be in the same era with these two guys than I was probably 10, 15 years ago (smiling). I think that definitely rivalries with them made me very, very strong, very resilient, and also very motivated that I am still today.”
Nadal, who is just a year older than the Serbian, is currently the only player to have won five or more major titles after the age of 30.
“I’m a completely different person, have a completely different life today than I had five years ago. I’m a father of two children. Obviously things are not the way they were 5 or 10 years ago. I know that. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better or it’s worse. It’s just different.”
2. ATP Cup glory came at a price
Djokovic kick-started his season by playing in the inaugural ATP Cup. A team event that had both prize money and ranking points up for grabs. It was a perfect start to 2020 by Djokovic, who was undefeated throughout the competition as he guided Serbia to the title. The country’s first team title of any sort since the 2010 Davis Cup. Overall, he won eight singles and two doubles matches.
Describing the triumph as ‘one of the highlights of his career,’ there were also drawbacks of investing so much effort into the event.
“It was a phenomenal couple of weeks and great lead up to Australian Open. But it did take a lot out of me. I did adjust my training sessions towards that, so I had a little bit more of recuperation rather than just stepping on the accelerator a little bit more.” He said.
“I just actually kind of put a level down a little bit, just tried to keep the sessions a bit shorter, with good intensity. That’s all, just maintain the right rhythm for the first match.”
Despite his admission, there is no indication that it will have any potential influence on his Australian Open campaign. Last year he played just four competitive matches leading up to Melbourne on the ATP Tour. Meanwhile, he didn’t play any at the start of 2018 because he was on the comeback from injury.
“It was a lot of physical and emotional energy being spent in the ATP Cup, which of course was perfect for me individually, won all my matches in singles and doubles. We as a team won the title, which was definitely one of the highlights of my career.” Djokovic concluded on his campaign at the ATP Cup.
3. Stronger mentality separates the Big Three from their rivals
With a buzz going round that this season could be the one where the dominance of Djokovic and Co is broken at the grand slam level, all eyes are on their successors. Among the contenders are ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev. However, why hasn’t there already been a breakthrough?
In Djokovic’s opinion, he believes one of the key factors is down to their mental game. Citing the experience of the Big Three, he admits that his rivals are ‘knocking on the door.’
“Rafa, Roger, and I, obviously because of the past 10, 15 years, we know what we need to do mentally also in this particular situation (winning a grand slam). That gives us probably a little bit of an edge.”
At the moment, Djokovic remains one of the players that everybody wants to beat given his dominance on court. As for his younger challengers, he believes there are a few things they need to address in order to reach the top.
“I think a lot of those next generation players are working very hard, being very professional. That’s a good sign because that’s one of the precursors, I guess, for the success,” he said.
“But, at the same time, to win a slam and also to kind of be consistently on the top level for many years, it takes I think a player to gain that mental and emotional maturity and experience to understand his own strengths, to kind of fight his own fears, to really be able to maintain that level for a long time.”
Seeded second in the draw this year, Djokovic will start his Australian Open campaign against Jan-Lennard Struff on Monday. He leads the German 2-0 in their head-to-head and is yet to drop a set against him.
‘He Needs To Bulk Up’ – Tennis Great Cast Doubt On Alex De Minaur’s French Open Chances
John Newcombe believes it will be a few more years before the world No.27 reaches his peak.
One of Australia’s most decorated Grand Slam champions of all time believes compatriot Alex de Minaur still has a way to go before he poses a threat at the French Open.
Former world No.1 John Newcombe believes the 21-year-old needs to improve on his physicality before reaching his peak on the surface. De Minaur comes into the Grand Slam high in confidence after reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open in what was his best performance at a major so far in his career. He was knocked out of the tournament by eventual winner Dominic Thiem.
Although De Minaur’s preparations for the clay took a blow last week after he lost the first round of the Italian Open to German qualifier Dominik Koepfer. The world No.27 had a set and 3-0 lead over Koepfer before losing. He is not playing in any tournament this week leading up to Roland Garros.
“I’d have to see the draw, how it comes out, but it will be hard work for him,” Newcombe told the Australian Associated Press about de Minaur’s chances in Paris.
“He’s going to have to do a hell of a lot of work. If he got to the quarters, it would be a terrific effort.
“He’s not going to be physically where he needs to be, just bulking up a bit, until he’s 25, 26.
“But he’s got a good all-court game and he understands the game well, so there’s no reason he can’t be a pretty good late maturer (on clay).”
This year’s clay-court major will be the fourth time the Australian has played in the main draw. In his three previous appearances, de Minaur has only won one match which was against Bradley Klahn last year.
During a recent interview with atptour.com, the Next Gen star gave little away about his expectations for the clay this year given the revised schedule. The French Open is taking place just two weeks after New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic which brought the sport to a five-month standstill earlier this year.
“Realistically, you never know until you step out and play matches. It’s a very quick turnaround, something that has never happened to play such an important event after a slam. I’m taking it all in, doing as best as I can and we will have to see,” he said.
De Minaur has won three ATP titles and has scored four wins over top 10 players so far in his career. He is currently the only player from his country ranked in the world’s top 40 on the ATP Tour.
Novak Djokovic claims his 36th Masters 1000 title in Rome
Novak Djokovic came back from 0-3 down in the first set to beat Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 53 minutes in the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome. Djokovic claimed his fifth title in the Eternal City and his 36th Masters 1000 trophy and his 81st career title. Djokovic has become the oldest Rome champion.
The World number 1 player extended his record in 2020 to an impressive record of 31 wins in 32 matches, including four titles at the Australian Open, Dubai, the Western and Southern Open in New York and Rome.
Djokovic dropped his serve three times and earned five breaks of serve.
Djokovic wasted a game point and dropped his serve, when he netted his backhand. Schwartzman hit four service winners in the second game to consolidate the break for 2-0.
Djokovic made a backhand error to face a break point in the third game. Schwartzman earned his second break to open up a 3-0 after 18 minutes, as Djokovic netted another backhand. Djokovic earned a break point chance and conveted it after a double fault from Schwartzman.
Djokovic held serve at 15 with an ace in the fifth game to claw his way back to 2-3. The Serbian star forced an error from Schwarzman to earn a breka point in the sixth game and got the break, when the Argentine netted a forehand. Djokovic held serve at 15 to take a 4-3 in the seventh game. Schwartzman hit a forehand down the line winner at 30-15 in the eighth game and held serve with a service winner to draw level to 4-4.
Djokovic saved a break point in the ninth game with a volley winner and held serve to take a 5-4 lead. Schwartzman saved a set point with a forehand winner and drew level to 5-5 after two deuces with a backhand the line winner.
Djokovic held serve after a deuce to take a 6-5 lead forcing Schwartzman to serve to stay in the set for the second time. Djokovic converted his third set point to win the opening set 7-5 after 70 minutes.
Schwartzman earned an early break at the start of the second set. Djokovic got the break back to draw level to 1-1 when Schwartzman sent a forehand wide.
Djokovic hit a winner at the net to hold serve in the third game. Schwartzman hit four winners in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2.
Djokovic saved two break points in the fifth game and held serve with a service winner to take a 3-2 lead. Schwartman held serve with a drop shot. Djokovic won his service game at love to take a 4-3 lead and broke serve at love in the eighth game with a backhand down the line winner. Djokovic held serve at love to close out the final.
“”It was a great week. A very challenging week. I don’t think I played my best tennis throughout the entire week, but I think I found my best tennis when I needed it the most in the decisive moments today, yesterday and in every match. That definitely makes me very satisfied and proud that I managed to find that fifth gear when it was most needed. Turning to Paris, I could not ask for a better tournament here in Rome. Another big title and i super pleased with it”, said Djokovic.
Stan Wawrinka Parts Way With Long-Time Coach Norman
Stan the man is on the look out for a new coach for the first time in almost a decade.
It is the end of an era for three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka after he announced his split from coach Magnus Norman.
The former world No.3 confirmed on Monday that the two have decided to end their collaboration with ‘mutual consent’ following eight years working together on the Tour. Norman was last with Wawrinka at the Italian Open last week where the Swiss player lost his opening match to rising star Lorenzo Musetti. It is unclear as to exactly when the decision was made.
“After 8 great years together Magnus Norman and I have decided to part ways by mutual consent. We have had an amazingly strong, enjoyable and hugely successful partnership. We reached the height of this sport together and I want to thank him for helping me win everything that I could ever dream of winning,” Wawrinka said in a statement posted on Instagram.
44-year-old Norman is a former world No.2 player himself who reached the final of the French Open back in 2000. During his coaching career, he guided Wawrinka to various milestones in his career that includes 13 ATP titles with three of those being at Grand Slam level. The Swede has also been recognized by the ATP for his work with Wawrinka after winning the inaugural Coach of the Year award back in 2016.
“He’s been a great coach, friend and mentor and will always be a dear friend,” Wawrinka said in a tribute.
“I want to publicly thank him for all his hard work, dedication and commitment in making me a better player over the years. Winning three grand slams have been a life changing experience for me and I could not have done that without him. I wish him all the best in his next chapter in his life.”
The announcement from the world No.17 comes a week before the French Open starts. Wawrinka has been training on the clay for the past few weeks after deciding against travelling to North America to play in the US Open. Instead, he played in a couple Challenger events and won a trophy in Prague last month. Overall, he has achieved a win-loss record of 15-3 so far in 2020.
It is unclear as to who will be replacing Norman in Wawrinka’s team.
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