Djokovic means business to keep Melbourne “love affair” going

The world n°1 is chasing an unprecedented ninth Australian Open title this month and has hit the ground running on his cherished Rod Laver Arena.

Novak Djokovic Australian Open 2021©Tennis Australia / Scott Barbour
 - Alex Sharp

“It's Novak. And it's Novak here at the Australian Open.”

Taylor Fritz, the world N°1’s next opponent in the third round, hit the spot – Novak Djokovic has an aura at Melbourne Park.

It’s not surprising the top seed is targeting an unprecedented ninth Australian Open title.

“It’s an ongoing love affair between me and the Rod Laver Arena,” said the Serbian. 

“Probably something similar maybe not like Rafa (Nadal) has with the French Open, but I've been feeling more comfortable on the court each year that I've been coming back. 

“It just feels right. When I stepped on the court this year for the first time in the practice session, I relived some of the memories from last year, also the other years that I won the tournament here. Yeah, it just gives me great sensation, great feeling, confidence.”

Djokovic seems in the right state of mind, going through his champion-like motions.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion, off the back of two impressive ATP Cup wins over Alexander Zverev and Denis Shapovalov, hopes to find top gear once again on his cherished courts to close the gap on Roger Federer and Nadal’s 20 majors. 

“I have been very transparent about the fact that one of the biggest goals is to try to reach the No. 1 of all-time weeks' record, and I'm getting closer and closer to that one,” continued the ever-ambitious top seed, knowing he will pass Federer’s 310 weeks atop of the rankings in March.

“As a professional tennis player, I need to have goals. Over the last 15 years, everything that I have managed to achieve, I don't settle for anything less but the top of the men's game and the biggest trophies. That's something I always aim for. I work towards that. I'm still lucky to be where I am. Let's see what the future holds.”

Novak clearly mean business Down Under.

With so much history and glory on the line, Djokovic is fairly pleased with his very contrasting Australian Open starters.

“You are expected to win most of the times as a top player and kind of ease your way through the first rounds, but, I don't see it that way. Still have to do your job on the court.”

Again, very businessman like.

Novak Djokovic Australian Open 2021©Tennis Australia / Scott Barbour

On Monday the 33-year-old was dynamic and dominant, flashing 41 winners past Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-1 , 6-2 in just 91 minutes. 

Like most multiple major champions, Djokovic has perfected how to pace himself at the Grand Slams, almost bottling up all his experience in matches like his first round. 

“Yeah, I try to memorise that, have kind of a muscle memory. I think every time you experience something, it's there. So it's up to you whether you are able to bring it out from the box again in the next encounter,” explained the defending champion. 

“It's not always possible to feel aligned or kind of in the zone every single match. I feel like you always have to adapt and really be flexible, but also try to stick to something that you know works best for you. Because in the moments when match can go either way, that's where you really go back to the basics and what feels right for you.”

Djokovic utilised all his muscle memory and brilliant basics to prevail in an exhausting 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-3 tussle with world No.64 Frances Tiafoe in the blazing heat on Wednesday. 

“He pushed me to the very limit I think,” said the top seed, managing to nullify the threat of the athletic American. 

“He's a very quick player. It's unpredictable what comes next. It was a tough match, and I'm really glad to overcome such a battle.”

Two down, five to go.

Meanwhile, 31st seed Fritz has already spent eight hours on court in the opening two rounds, edging his compatriot and close friend Reilly Opelka 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-2.

“It's just another chance to prove myself,” insisted the 23-year-old, losing two straight set matches against Djokovic on clay courts in 2019. 

“I've got nothing to lose, and I'm going to go out and I'm going to have a lot of fun and I'm going to play extremely aggressive tennis and see what I can do.”

Over to you Taylor.