Djokovic matures as player, person in past 5 years
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Six Grand Slam singles titles and more than $58 million in career prize money appear not to have affected Novak Djokovic’s perspective on life, both on and off the tennis court.
Not long after the Serbian star’s 6-0, 6-4, 6-4 win Wednesday over Leonardo Mayer at the Australian Open — his 24th win in a row at Melbourne Park as he attempts to capture his fourth consecutive Australian title — he was asked to explain the best part of being him.
“Well, usually I do not like to talk too much about myself, I leave that to other people,” Djokovic said. “I think they can make a judgment about who I am and how good or not good I am on the court and off the court.
“But for me it’s important to always know where I come from, be grateful for the life that I have. Since I was four or five years old I played this sport, always dreamed of playing on this stage, so I don’t take any situation for granted. Being aware of all these things is the best of being Novak Djokovic.”
The 26-year-old former No. 1 didn’t take anything for granted Wednesday on Rod Laver Arena, preferring to get off the court as quickly as possible in the continuing hot temperatures — a high of 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) — at Melbourne Park.
Attempting to become the first player to win five Australian Open titles since the start of the Open Era in 1968, Djokovic appeared to be in peak fitness —except for a turned left ankle that caused him some momentary discomfort. He says it won’t be a problem when he returns to the court Friday to play Denis Istomin in the third round.
Five years ago, before his dietary changes, Djokovic was anything but supremely fit in the hot Australian conditions. It was never more apparent than when he retired from his 2009 Australian Open quarterfinal against Andy Roddick due to a heat-related ailment.
“Obviously as the years go by, I’m more mature as a player, as a person,” Djokovic said when asked to explain the differences in his condition between then and now.
“I learned new things in life. I develop myself. I’m physically got stronger, mentally also. All of this plays, of course, an important role when you are playing in such conditions. Generally it’s much more efficient for me nowadays to recover and to get ready for next point than it used to be 2009.”