Djokovic shows why he is king of the Australian Open
MELBOURNE - Reuters
Novak Djokovic of Serbia kisses his trophy after defeating Andy Murray of Britain in their men’s singles final match at the Australian Open in Melbourne. AFP PhotoNovak Djokovic may never win as many Wimbledon or U.S. Open titles as Roger Federer or as many French Open championships as Rafa Nadal but when it comes to the Australian Open the Serbian reigns supreme. Djokovic won his fifth Australian Open crown yesterday, beating Andy Murray 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0 in an old fashioned slugfest where the pair went toe-t-toe like two prize fighters before the Serb knocked the Scotsman out.
The only man to win more Australian titles than Djokovic is Roy Emerson, who chalked up six in the 1960s when the grand slams were restricted to amateur players and the Australian Open was played on grass at different cities all over the country.
But in the professional era, Djokovic is the undisputed king Down Under, playing in five Australian Open finals and winning the lot.
That he has done it during a golden period for tennis when Federer and Nadal were at their peak only adds to his accomplishment.
He has captured as many Australian Opens as Federer and Nadal combined and beaten Murray, his other great contemporary rival, in three finals.
The key to Djokovic’s success in Australia is his incredible fitness. The Australian Open, more than any other grand slam, is as much a survival of the fittest as a test of skill, played on Melbourne Park’s hard-court at the height of the southern hemisphere summer.
Djokovic’s commitment to keeping himself in mint condition is already legendary. He spends as much time in the gym as on the court, often training three times a day.
He is also a stickler for everything he eats and drinks, swearing off bread, chocolate, dairy products, alcohol and caffeine as part of a gluten-free diet he embarked on because he thought his energy levels were running low.
It has not always been that way with Djokovic and he has learnt the hard way.
Although he won his first Australian Open in 2008, the Serb abandoned his title defense in the quarter-finals the following year, too tired to continue.
Criticized for quitting, and struggling to find a way to catch up with Federer and Nadal, he set about turning himself into a tennis machine.
In 2011, he won his second Australian Open, first Wimbledon and first U.S. Open titles. He won the Australian Open again in 2012 and 2013 then a second Wimbledon last year.
Sunday’s win gave him his eighth career grand slam singles title, lifting him alongside Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi and Fred Perry.
Only seven players have won more, headed by Federer with 17 and Nadal on 14, who is tied with Pete Sampras. At age 27, the odds are against Djokovic eclipsing them for the overall record but when it comes to Australia he rules supreme.