To some he’s the Djoker, the tennis player with a sense of humor. It doesn’t matter to him if his humor offends, as it’s his way of blowing off steam.
But for many years, Novak Djokovic was the best of the rest. The top player in the world not named Federer or Nadal. Now, though that has changed.
After his complete demolition of No. 5 seed Andy Murray, 6-4 6-2 6-3, to win the 2011 Australian Open, Djokovic vaulted himself up into the land of Federer and Nadal with his second OZ Open win and that makes it twice in four years.
“This was a great match,” Djokovic said. “From the start to the last point, I did what I intended of doing tactically, what I talked with my coach, what I prepared for. Physically I was very fit. I had two days between the semifinals and finals match, which was important at this stage of the tournament.
“Because I was aware of the fact that I am going to yeah, bring it to me. That will have long rallies and I will have a player who doesn’t miss a lot, a very talented player who is one of the best returners in the game.
“And, yeah, you know, I had to step in. That was the key. When I had the chance to step in and try to move him around the court, that’s what I did. Probably the turning point was the last game of the first set where we had some incredible exchange from the baseline, long rallies, and some passing shots that turned the match around.”
For all his talent, the knock on Djokovic was that he suffered from some mental mistakes, which would keep him for vaulting over players like Federer and Nadal. But something seemed to click late last year, which made him mentally tougher and kept his emotions in check.
“Something switched in my head, because I am very emotional on and off the court,” he said. “I show my emotions. This is the way I am. Everybody’s different.
“The things off court were not working for me, you know. It reflected on my game, on my professional tennis career. But then, you know, I settled some things in my head. It was all on me. You know, I had to try to find the best possible solution and try to get back on the right track.
“It’s been a big mental struggle, because I was trying to separate my, of course, professional life from my more private life.
“But, you know, if somebody’s emotional we’re all humans. It’s not possible. If something isn’t working off court, then it’s going to reflect on the court. I managed to solve that problems.
“This is all part of life. Of course, everybody’s facing difficult situations in their lives. To overcome the crisis and to stand up and try to still dedicate yourself to the sport was a big success for me as a person.”
With Roger Federer now on the downside of his career and Rafael Nadal taking up the mantle of the world’s best player, Djokovic is gaining ground in becoming the yin to Nadal’s yang. All great champions have one. Nadal was Federer’s Andre Agassi was Pete Sampras, and so forth. And after straight sets wins over Federer and Murray in the Semifinals and Finals, Djokovic is approaching that level.
Yet, according to the 23 year-old, there is still a gap.
“Still Rafa and Roger are the two best players in the world,” Djokovic said. “No question about that. You can’t compare my success and Murray’s success to their success. They’re the two most dominant players in the game for a while. All the credit to them.
“It’s nice to see that there are some new players in the later stages of Grand Slams fighting for a title. That’s all I can say.”
And it’s nice to see the Serbian win this one. Djokovic will be trying to improve his standing on other surfaces as he never got past the Semifinals at Roland Garros or Wimbledon. Yet, the he seems to be ready for the challenge.
“I don’t want to stop here,” he said. Definitely I want to keep my body healthy, fit, and ready for some more challenges to come. I feel that I have a good game for all the surfaces. I have proven that in the past.”