MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic has it all covered. The spaces between the lines of a tennis court, and the linear movement of a script he is shaping towards the ‘Greatest Of All Time’. No less. On the court, it’s about little steps, three, sometimes four, to the left or to the right. A lunge, reaching for a forehand or a stretch for the backhand.
Off the court, healthy choices and a steady mind prepares the world No. 1 for competition.
The 35-year-old Serb, the owner of the sport’s most emphatic counter, is tied with Rafael Nadal at a record 22 Grand Slams apiece.
“I am motivated to win as many Slams as possible. At this stage of my career, these trophies are the biggest motivational factor of why I still compete,” the 35-year-old said. “I never really liked comparing myself to others, but of course it’s a privilege to be part of the discussion as one of the greatest players of all time.”
Djokovic is aiming to go past Serena Williams’ Open Era record of 23 major titles and eventually Margaret Court’s all-time haul of 24.
“I really don’t want to stop here,” the world No. 1 said.
Djokovic, who came into the Australian Open with a hamstring injury, saw his condition improve as the tournament progressed. He remains unbeaten in his two tournament outings this year, accumulating a 12-0 win-loss-record. The next major is scheduled for May at Roland Garros, where Nadal has won 14 titles.
“I feel great about my tennis. I know that when I’m feeling good physically and am mentally present, I have a chance to win any Grand Slam against anybody,”
Djokovic said. “I like my chances going forward.”
Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic believes the Serb can play at the top for another two-three years, but believes Nadal is the favourite at the French Open later this year. “Carlos Alcaraz is unbelievable. Still, if Rafa steps on the court, for me he’s always the favourite to win the French Open,” Ivanisevic said.
“There are a lot of guys who can beat Rafa (Nadal), also Novak can beat him. But Rafa has won the tournament 14 times. Yo u cannot even win a tournament at home 14 times in a row. It’s amazing. They really push each other.”
Djokovic is aware of the younger players chasing him for titles and the No. 1 ranking. On Monday, the Serb replaced 19-year-old Alcaraz as the No . 1 player in the world. “I’ve been in these situations so many times, that experience, being in those circumstances, in those shoes, helps me always to keep my mind fresh and know what’s expected of me,” he said.
How much longer Djokovic, the father of two — eight-year-old Stefan and five-year-old Tara — keeps playing will not just depend on his body, but also his family.
“It’s extremely important for me to have the support and love of my close ones to be able to keep the balance with the private life,” he said, adding, “At the same time to really strive to chase these trophies.”
“Physically, I can keep myself fit,” he said. “Of course, 35 is not 25, even though I want to believe it is. But I still feel there is time ahead of me.”
The triple triumph of No. 22 on the Grand Slam count, the 10th Australian Open title and the No. 1 ranking is especially important to the Serb, given that he’s achieving it at age 35. “Yo u never know how much more time you have left,” he said.
“I celebrate these moments of becoming No. 1 again and Grand Slam champion again even more than I have maybe ever in my career. I don’t take it for granted.”
Djokovic wins Australian Open to equal Nadal’s 22 Grand Slam titles
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