Strutting 'Nole' dropped gluten, rules tennis
Strutting, chest-thumping Novak Djokovic successfully wrested ownership of men's tennis from Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and he is not about to let go lightly.sports Updated: Jan 28, 2012 13:08 IST
Strutting, chest-thumping Novak Djokovic successfully wrested ownership of men's tennis from Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and he is not about to let go lightly.
Formerly the nearly man as Federer and Nadal locked down the big prizes, the 24-year-old had an inspired season in 2011, winning three majors and reaching the number one ranking for the first time.
It was a season that left commentators short of superlatives as the Serb produced one of the greatest years in tennis history, winning a total of 10 titles and going on a 41-match winning streak.
Djokovic, who grew up in conflict-hit Belgrade, was formerly the joker of the locker room but he transformed his career after a makeover which included dropping gluten from his diet.
"Obviously there is Rafa, Roger, and Andy (Murray) who have been probably my biggest rivals in the last couple of years. I managed to get to the number one place, win a couple of grand slams last year, and have the best year of my career," he said.
"I'm aware now that everyone wants to win the major titles, get that number one spot. It's normal. It's something I'm prepared for. I've been working hard in the off-season."
The Serb plays world number two Nadal in Sunday's final in Melbourne, seeking his third Australian Open title after wins in 2008 and last year, when he beat Murray in the final.
The 2011 title in Melbourne kicked off a remarkable season that featured 41 consecutive wins -- 43 including two Davis Cup victories at the end of 2010 -- and he ended the year with a record prize money haul of $12.6 million.
Some of the gloss was taken off Djokovic's 2011 season with late season defeats as injuries caught up with him, but he has hit the ground running in Australia and is still the man to beat.
In the final Djokovic faces a man he has beaten in the past six meetings, including in last year's Wimbledon and US finals, as he bids to become just the fifth man to win three consecutive slams in the open era.
The Serb has sometimes looked uncomfortable in Melbourne, struggling with his breathing and admitted after his win over Murray on Friday that he had been having trouble with an allergy.
There have been question-marks in the past over the durability of Djokovic, nicknamed "Nole", after he withdrew from the 2007 Wimbledon semi-finals and the 2009 quarter-finals in Melbourne.
But Djokovic, watched from the stands by his photogenic girlfriend Jelena Ristic, showed he had what it takes physically, fighting off a fierce challenge from the British fourth seed after a match lasting nearly five hours.