Djokovic number 1 celebrates the “10” and that “the fire continues to burn”
MELBOURNE – When Novak Djokovic arrived in Australia, he did so with a nervousness he had not experienced before. He didn’t know what the crowd’s reaction was going to be like. He had no idea what was going to happen when he went in to play. He didn’t know whether he would be showered with boos or a wave of applause.
What would the Djokovic of 2023 say to the Djokovic of 2022? “Come to Australia, everything will be fine,” the Serb told Serbian reporters on Monday during a small talk in Melbourne.
From the Adelaide title to the Melbourne title, the balance of an unpredictable comeback was characterised by success amid uncertainty.
Not least because of doubts about the crowd reaction, which led Tennis Australia to announce that spectators who booed the Serb would be banned from the tournament. Unnecessarily, Djokovic’s fortnight in Melbourne went from standing ovation to standing ovation.
There was also uncertainty over his injuries. Both Djokovic and Goran Ivanisevic, his coach, commented that at various times the Serb’s participation was uncertain.
“97% of the players would have dropped out of the tournament after seeing that result in the tests,” said the Croatian, who also confessed that he was “scared” to see Djokovic so complicated against the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, in that third round match that the Serb ended up winning in three sets despite the pain in his left thigh.
Novak Djokovic number 1
Djokovic number 1. The Serb dawned this Monday as the best tennis player in the world according to the ranking. He posed with a “1” and the Australian Open trophy on the lawns of Victoria’s Government House, on the south side of the Yarra River, with skyscrapers sprouting behind him. The digit served a double function, because before appearing alone it had been accompanied by a zero to honour the ten Grand Slams won by the Serb in Melbourne.
No gondolas or gala dresses as was the case with Aryna Sabalenka, but with a more sober style. From the point he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final, a sense of relief has been more prominent than euphoria in Djokovic’s entourage.
“There’s still a lot of that fire inside me that burns because of the passion I have for tennis. It’s what drives me to still push myself to the limit,” said the 35-year-old after the photo shoot which he repeated again with the Norman Brookes trophy: “I want to keep winning Grand Slams,” he said after the final.
With his tenth in Melbourne and 22nd in total, the debate over who is the greatest of them all, if purely measured by the number of Grand Slam titles, moves to Paris. And as the Serb returns to the top, Rafael Nadal, his rival in the race, is recovering from the left iliac psoas injury that dramatically knocked him out of the Australian Open.
The Spaniard announced that he will be between 6 and 8 weeks away from the tour, so his return could be in one of the Masters 1000 hard court tournaments in the United States. Djokovic will not play in these tournaments, given that as a non-vaccinated foreigner he does not meet the requirements for entry to the North American country.
Regarding Roland Garros and the possible tiebreaker of the “handball match” to which Ivanisevic metaphorically compares, as 22-22 is a more common count in a scoreboard of that sport than in Grand Slam titles, the Croatian says that “Nadal will always be favourite in the Phillippe Chatrier”.
An eventual match at Roland Garros between the Serb and the Spaniard, which anyone would want to happen in the final to see that epic tie-breaker, could also happen at an earlier stage, as Nadal dropped to sixth in the rankings and will continue to fall as he will lose the points from his Acapulco title and possibly those from the Indian Wells final.
Meanwhile, Djokovic number 1 will play the Dubai ATP 500 in February, the only confirmed event after Australia and before the European clay-court tour.