Novak Djokovic has said he will make overhauling Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record of 20 grand slam singles titles his priority, after he was crowned Australian Open champion for a ninth time.
Djokovic, who revealed he had sustained an abdominal tear of the oblique in his third-round victory against Taylor Fritz, saw off the Russian Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in Melbourne to secure his 18th grand slam title in total. His victory also confirmed the 33-year-old victor will celebrate his 311th week as world No 1 next month, finally surpassing Federer’s all-time record, although the Serb admitted his main target will now be competing for more major titles.
“I don’t feel like I’m old or tired or anything like that,” said Djokovic. “But I know that biologically and realistically things are different than they were 10 years ago for me. I have to be smarter with my schedule and peak at the right time. So the slams are the tournaments where I want to be able to perform my best.
“Now, after achieving the historic No 1 for the longest weeks at No 1, it’s going to be a relief for me because I’m going to focus all my attention on slams mostly. When you are going for No 1 rankings, you kind of have to be playing the entire season and you have to be playing well, you have to play all the tournaments. My goals will adapt and will shift a little bit, which means that I will have an opportunity to adjust also my calendar which, as a father and a husband, I’m really looking forward to that.”
When asked how he would describe himself and his two rivals, Djokovic jokingly opted for “Three Knights of Tennis”. He then pointed out the motivating force that Nadal and Federer provide him.
“Roger and Rafa inspire me. That’s something that I’ve said before. I’ll say it again. I mean, I think as long as they go, I’ll go,” he said, smiling. “I think in a way it’s, like, a race who plays tennis more, I guess, and who wins more. It’s a competition between us in all areas. But I think that’s the very reason why we are who we are, because we do drive each other, we motivate each other, we push each other to the limit.”
Goran Ivanisevic remains Djokovic’s coach but the 2001 Wimbledon champion paid tribute to a rivalry that has amassed a combined 58 grand slam titles. “It’s amazing what they are doing on the court,” he said. “It’s amazing how they perform in big matches. I’m waiting for Roger to come back. It’s going to be more interesting to see what’s going to happen in French and Wimbledon. It’s just great.
“The race is there. Who knows. I said a couple years ago Rafa and Novak, they were going to overtake Roger, both of them. I still believe that. I still think so.”