Friday, 7 January 2011

Novak Djokovic - The Djoker is me

COMEDIAN, chameleon, grand slam winner and the world's No. 3 tennis player - all seems complete for Serb Novak Djokovic. No. He still has two bumps to negotiate on the road to further glory, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
ON ANY given day, Novak Djokovic has more wardrobe changes than a catwalk model.

One minute he can be found on the practice court, clad in Sergio Tacchini designer apparel.

The next he is on stage at the Hopman Cup ball, a stand-out in a finely cut Italian suit, brandishing a guitar.

Soon after he is trying to dance with wheelchair-bound Lucy Hopman.

The next day Djokovic lounges at the stern of a cruiser as it idles along the Swan River. Alongside him - for photographic purposes only - is friend and compatriot Ana Ivanovic.

For a man born in war-torn Serbia, a nation with no tennis heritage to speak of, Djokovic is supremely at ease.

But the chameleon of world tennis is fossicking for more than celebrity.

For one thing, he no longer wants to stare over the net at either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer and fret.

"There were times with them where I was approaching matches differently. It was not good, obviously," he admits.

"I was aware that I had Nadal or Federer across the net, which is not good.

"I was trying to say that whoever is across the net, you have to play your game. It was not the case against both guys.

"This is something that has to be changed, the mental approach.

"I hope that I will implement that into my game."

Djokovic, 23, is a grand slam singles champion, world No.3, winning member of the 2010 Davis Cup team and strong contender for a second Australian Open crown.

Yet there are times when it seems the cavalier right-hander is desperate to remind himself of those feats against Nadal and Federer.

"I have won against them quite a few times on different surfaces and I know how it feels like playing against them and playing on the big stage, winning a grand slam and Davis Cup," he says.

"I have a couple of big titles in my career and I want to use that experience and hopefully I can get the challenge of playing against them.

"I have full respect for everything they have done. For me, they are the two best players that ever played the game. Just physically and mentally, the way they approach the tournaments and matches. It's just amazing the way they hold their level."

Famed for impersonating others, Djokovic has slowly come to terms with who he actually is.

His challenge is to elevate a swashbuckling game, built on exquisite footwork and timing, to Nadal's level.

Djokovic is in Nadal's thrall, which is not to say he does not believe the Spanish bull is beatable.

He shakes his head and grins when asked to reconcile Nadal's 2010 season, which delivered the French, Wimbledon and US Open titles.

"The way Nadal is on and off the court, how dedicated he is, he is amazing," Djokovic says.

"He keeps on improving. At the US Open, I have never seen him serve so well. That was the key of his victory there. He was consistently serving 130mp/h (210km/h), which is just incredible.

"He has a huge game from the baseline, as he has shown at the French Open. But he keeps on working to improve. He is incredible."

Ditto for Federer.

Djokovic takes cold comfort out of the fact both of his rivals are marginally older. Nadal is 24; Federer 29.

As it is with Andy Murray's quest to improve his strength and stamina, so it with Djokovic.

Acutely aware of the odour around his spate of grand slam mid-match retirements, Djokovic realises he has to work harder.

"I've had some issues with breathing in the past and it was just part of my health, my body and my allergies as well," he says.

"I've been trying to find a solution for that.

"Here in Australia, with the 40C-plus heat, it is not really easy to handle but it is the same for everybody.

"I will have to accept there are some moments in the tournament, in the matches that you are going through the critical times and you're hitting the wall.

"But that's when you need to overcome that.

"A couple years back, it was very sad at the Australian Open 2009 with the retirement, which I really don't like.

"But there are those moments in your life when you really want to stay healthy and don't push over the limits.

"I respect my profession. I respect the tennis and I really want to be the best in the world and get the most success as possible, but I don't want to lose my health because of what I do. Sometimes there are moments when you feel you need to stop, so that's why I stop.

"Physically, I feel maybe fitter than ever."

Inconsistency has been Djokovic's other bugbear.

His best is sufficient to stretch the best, but the gap between his finest and his worst is greater than Nadal and Federer's.

"In last six months of 2010, everything seems to be working for me in a good direction," he says.

"I think I was much more consistent than in first six months.

"There were some quite critical issues for me.

"I had issues with health and I had issues in the private life which affected my performance because I am so emotional and when I go through those things, it shows on the tennis court as well.

"From Wimbledon semi-final, I started regaining my confidence, feeling more confident on court and playing finals - best tournament of the year was the US Open.

"And then Davis Cup final gave me a lot of confidence boost."

And so to Melbourne Park from Monday week, when judge and jury will sift through the evidence and decide if Djokovic's words are to be matched by deeds.

On Hopman Cup form, Djokovic is definitely in the mix.

"I didn't do well in 2010 in the major events and that's my priority at the moment to be fit and ready to perform my best in the grand slam tournaments of 2011," he says.

"Definitely, I feel like I can win some more grand slam tournaments in upcoming years.

"I have motivation, I have the desire and I think I have the qualities I need to have in order to compete with the best and it's just a matter of luck, as well.

"I am competing with some great players. Nadal and Federer are the two best players in the world and they are always the two biggest favourites to win any grand slam.

"So if you want to win best of five in a grand slam, you need to be sharp physically and mentally.

"I think I'm close to doing that."

Courtesy: HearldSun

1 comment:

  1. great interview...thanks for sharing.