Friday, 28 January 2011

Djokovic preparing from greatness

Courtesy: Official Website

Some of Novak Djokovic's on and off-court antics might, in the past, have implied disrespect of his elders and betters, but the 23-year-old wasn't about to risk getting trampled by the elephant in the room by suggesting tennis fans had witnessed a changing of the guard when he beat world No.2 Roger Federer last night.

Perhaps he had seen Federer swat aside the brave (read Kamikaze) journalist who put voice to the Rod Laver Arena whispers heralding the arrival of Generation Next, snapping: "They say that very quickly, so...let's talk in six months again."

Perhaps the world No.3 is older and wiser than the rookie who used to post You Tube videos of himself mimicking his peers' playing styles. Whatever, Djokovic made it quite clear that his victory over the man currently dubbed the Greatest Of All Time was simply a hard-earned win from a closely-fought match.

"Look, it's maybe early to say that (there has been a changing of the guard)," said 2008 Australian Open champion Djokovic. Roger is still very much motivated to reclaim the first spot in the rankings. (Then) you have Nadal on the other hand who has been a very, very dominant player.

"All the credit to them, what they have done in last five, six years. They've been very dominant and just a great example of champions. We are still behind them. You can't say there is a new era coming up."

Federer has made no secret that he's still got his eyes firmly on reclaiming the world No.1 ranking prize. That passion remained undimmed following Thursday's less-than-Federer-esque showing. One stumble in 10 matches played for the season does not, after all, a career demise make.

"This is obviously a bit of a blow (but) at the same time, I played a good tournament. I have no regrets. I left everything out there. We'll see what comes next," said the four-time Australian Open champion. "(It) doesn't mean the guy that doesn't win the tournament can't play tennis. That's sometimes how things are portrayed. I had a great season last year, and I think I'll have another one this year."

While perhaps still not quite ready to join Federer and Nadal on the sport's top podium, Djokovic's noticeable maturation over the past 12 months has manifested in a more focused playing style. He acknowledges the difference the three years have made since he won his first, (and so far only) Grand Slam title here at Melbourne Park.

"I was a 20-year-old kid hitting as hard as he can with closed eyes and everything was going in back then," he says. "Then, over the years, I faced some situations that I never faced before, (the) pressure of defending Grand Slams and things like that. You grow up. You get this knowledge and the necessary experience. You just have to accept that as a good (lesson) and move on."

With experience comes self-knowledge, something the one-time Djoker appears to have in spades right now.

"One wise man told me, It's not the will to win that makes a winner, it's the will to prepare," he says. "Basically that's a sentence I keep on telling to myself. Prepare well. That's what I do well."

Casting about insightful pearls like that, it might not be long before the Belgrade-born Monte Carlo resident is as renowned for his philosophical leanings as his is for his online video shenanigans.

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