Can 2018 Djokovic Follow 2017 Federer's Script In Melbourne?
Few are expecting much of him, and even fewer are predicting that he'll win yet another Australian Open title. A quarter-final appearance? He'll probably take it.
Sound familiar? Roger Federer was that guy last year at the Australian Open. Federer came back after having missed six months away, with his final match in 2017 coming at Wimbledon.
“It's a great draw because I'm in the draw. So for me I'm super pleased that I made it here, that I have an opportunity to win matches. How many rests to be seen. I'm cautious myself. So, yeah, clearly an underdog this time around,” Federer said before his first match at the 2017 Australian Open.
Djokovic's past six months have followed a similar script. The Serbian retired from his Wimbledon quarter-final against Czech Tomas Berdych and missed the remainder of the season because of a right elbow injury. Djokovic, who unlike Federer did not undergo surgery, brings a new outlook with him to the season's first Grand Slam.
“I’m learning how to be patient as well honestly, and I think one thing that we tennis players miss a lot is patience. And it’s part of the world that we are in, the season is constantly ongoing so it’s from January 1st to November 20th bam bam bam bam, you don’t have time much time and you’re always in a roll so you’re always into looking for quick solutions, quick fixes,” Djokovic told Sport360 last month.
Could Djokovic continue to track Federer and, when few are expecting much of him, take home the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, as Federer did last year? It would be historic for multiple reasons.
No one has won the Australian Open more than Djokovic. The Serbian has captured the Melbourne title six times (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016), a mark he shares with only Roy Emerson. One more title this Aussie fortnight and Djokovic will be the all-time Australian Open title leader.
The Serbian is also attempting to become only the eighth man in history to claim at least seven titles at any Grand Slam event. Rafael Nadal, of course, has won 10 Roland Garros titles, and Federer won his eighth Wimbledon crown last year.
Most titles at the same Grand Slam tournament
2005-08, 2010-2014, 2017
2003-07, 2009, 2012, 2017
2008, 2011-13, 2015-16, 2018??
Djokovic does not have an easy draw Down Under. The Serbian, who is 58-7 in Melbourne, opens against American veteran Donald Young and could face Qatar ExxonMobil Open titlist Gael Monfils in the second round. From there, Djokovic, the 14th seed, could meet 21st seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and fourth seed Alexander Zverev could await in the fourth round.
It might not happen at his first tournament back, but a healthy Djokovic plans to eventually return to the top of the ATP World Tour.
“I would lie to you and I would not be honest, not to you, to myself, if I tell you anything less than being No. 1 and winning Slams,” Djokovic told Sport360 of his goals.
“I know that I’ve done it in the past, I’ve proven to myself that I can do it and why not aim for it again? Because I feel that, first of all, I have the willpower. Which is the most important thing. You need to really want something, you need to wish for it, you need really strongly believe and commit to that. So I am.
“And not just myself, which is very important, my family, my wife, my children are there, my parents, my brothers, and my team, are very supportive of me and they’re giving me that energy that I need.
“For these circumstances now that I am in, I’m trying to balance these goals, at the same time be a bit more understanding of what’s going on here (elbow) and say just take your time. Even if it doesn’t happen [this] season or whatever, take your time. But once I’m there, I’ve got to be honest, I don’t satisfy myself with anything less than that.”