Having battled Nadal in a six-hour epic to defend his Australian Open crown, it’s now Djokovic’s turn to feel like he cannot lose. The best of the bestsports Updated: Jan 31, 2012 02:08 IST
Novak Djokovic has that unbeatable feeling. And well he should.
The Serb outlasted Rafael Nadal to defend his Australian Open title in the longest ever Grand Slam final and become the fifth man to win three straight majors in the Open Era.
Djokovic now has the French Open — the one major to elude him — in his sights. He won’t even rule out the ultimate: the Grand Slam.
“One player (Rod Laver) has done it, so it is possible,” he said at the post-victory photo shoot on Monday. “Obviously the times are different and tennis nowadays is much more competitive and much more physical. And that makes that challenge more difficult to achieve. But everything is possible.”
With the London Olympics to follow Wimbledon this year, Djokovic could even make it a Golden Slam by winning the gold medal at London 2012 to go with the four majors.
“The facts are that I’m at the peak of my career,” Djokovic said. “I feel physically and mentally at the peak, I feel strong, I feel motivated, I feel eager to win more.”
Having slept for only a few hours, Djokovic dispensed with the band and the raucous dressing room celebrations that marked his victory last year, choosing to strum the air guitar and belt out a few lyrics from “Highway To Hell.”
Djokovic recalled the brief celebrations after the match at Rod Laver Arena and made a half-hearted attempt to sing the refrain from the AC/DC rock anthem. His legs were too tired, and his throat a bit hoarse. “Oh man, I’m tired.”
And so he should be. Djokovic completed a 5-hour, 53-minute 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 victory over Nadal at 1:37 a.m. — ending an epic match with a forehand winner that finally finished off the Spaniard.
He defied exhaustion to tear off his shirt and flex his bare torso as he made his way to celebrate with friends and family. He was still doing interviews after 4 am.
It didn’t leave much time for celebrating. Unlike his victory at the 2011 Australian Open, when he beat his friend Andy Murray in straight sets and then kicked off an all-night party with a rock band in the locker room. “I didn’t have any more energy left to celebrate,” Djokovic said Monday. “I was preferring my bed.”
Raising the bar
Djokovic’s seventh straight win in a final over Nadal underlined his dominance of the men’s game, which until last year had been headlined by Nadal and Federer. Nadal got closer to ending the Serb’s recent success against him, but after being a break up in the fifth set, couldn’t get over the line.
In the end, Djokovic’s unshakable belief that began to develop when he won the Davis Cup with Serbia at the end of 2010, and strengthened when he went the first 41 matches of last season unbeaten, pulled him through. Once the bridesmaid to Nadal and Federer, Djokovic understood exactly how his opponent felt.
“When I played three, four years ago against Rafa and Roger in Grand Slam semifinals and finals, I felt that they were just superior on the court, that they had this mental advantage,” he said. “Because they just know that when the time comes, when the match is breaking down, fifth set, they will always prevail, because they believe more, they have more experience and they know what to do.”
Now it’s Djokovic’s turn to feel like he’s the one who can’t lose.