New Season, New Serve For Djokovic
Following a six-month absence from the sport to rehabilitate an elbow injury, the former World No.1 in the ATP Rankings and 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic makes his return to competitive action at the Australian Open armed with a fresh mindset – and a new serve.
Djokovic, whose loaded resume includes six Australian Open titles won on the cerulean hard courts of Melbourne Park, has always served notice at the start of the season. This year, he’ll be serving a little differently thanks to hard work done in the pre-season with coaching additions Andre Agassi and the recently retired Radek Stepanek.
“The service motion is something that we worked on,” said Djokovic. “It was obviously the part of my game that I had to address because of the elbow issues. I've worked on it for last couple months with Radek and Andre.
“Both Radek and Andre have discussed a lot before the information came across to me,” he added. “They spent a lot of hours analysing my serve. I did, too. We talked about it.”
Changing any technical aspect of a player’s game can be difficult, especially when the game in question is one as established and successful as Djokovic’s. The Serbian’s records speak for themselves, including 68 tour-level titles and 223 weeks at No.1 in the ATP Rankings. So how does one go about retuning an instrument of past success, such as a service motion?
“[There are] some corrections... some improvements to the technique, which I think are allowing me to be more efficient with the serve, but also allowing me to release the load from the elbow, which is obviously something that I have to do because I have that injury,” said Djokovic. “So far it's been working really well... I'm happy with the new service motion. I don't want to say 'new serve', but new service motion.
“I feel like I spend less energy but I'm more efficient. I'm really looking forward to try out my new serve here.”
Much has changed on the ATP World Tour since the Serbian retired from his quarter-final match against Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal reclaimed the World No. 1 ranking, while he and Roger Federer split the final two Grand Slams of the year. Alexander Zverev, the 20-year-old, claimed another ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown just months after defeating Djokovic for his first, and Grigor Dimitrov went undefeated in his Nitto ATP Finals triumph.
Nevertheless, Djokovic remains confident in his comeback.
“I still know what I'm capable of, and I believe in my own abilities to win against the best players in the world,” said the 14th seed at this year’s Australian Open. “I know that if I get myself to [my] desired level of performance - mental and physical - that I can actually have a good chance to go far in the tournament.
“Now, whether my approach is different to this year's Australian Open to other previous years, probably yes. It's different circumstances. But it is exciting. Honestly, it's a good place to be.”