Djokovic: 'I Always Try To Push Myself Here'
Serbian reflects on past 12 months ahead of Pouille semi-final
Twelve months ago after a fourth-round exit at the Australian Open, when he nursed an elbow injury, Novak Djokovic was searching for his game and motivation. Today, the Serbian sits atop the ATP Rankings and is fully focused on the job at hand: to win a record seventh title in Melbourne.
“It feels great,” said Djokovic, who advanced to the semi-finals on Wednesday. “This has been my most successful Grand Slam throughout my career, the first one that I won back in 2008. The past two years have been a bit tough with the elbow injury and everything, but over the past 10 years, I've had plenty of success here. Obviously, that has helped to kick-start the season in a great fashion [and], obviously, served as a great confidence boost for what was coming up after that.
“I think that's one of the reasons why I think I always try to push myself really, to focus here and to play as best as I can so I can really start off the season well. Obviously, I'm not the only one. Everyone tries to get their hands on one of the four biggest titles in the sport. But Australia has been really kind to me throughout my career.”
Six of his 14 Grand Slam championship trophies have come in Melbourne, where he has a 66-8 match record.
By going back to basics, Djokovic went on a tear midway through 2018, winning Wimbledon, the US Open and becoming the first player in ATP Masters 1000 history to complete the Career Golden Masters of all nine tournaments.
When asked to reflect on the past 12 months, the 31-year-old said, “I think it always has to start or go back to the very essence of why I play the sport: it's love and passion for the game. I think I had to really I think dig deep to kind of inspire myself even more after an injury and surgery.
“I did not plan to end my career, but different thoughts were going through my mind, without a doubt [during] that period. Having achieved a lot throughout my career, obviously puts things in a different perspective. At the same time I still enjoy playing tennis, competing of course as well. Just for the sake of holding the racquet in my hands and playing on any court, whether it's a public court or a Grand Slam court.
“I think that kind of pure emotion got me going. Of course, support of loved ones is essential.”
On Friday, Djokovic will challenge Lucas Pouille, the seventh Frenchman in the Open Era (since April 1968) to reach the Australian Open semi-finals. The pair will play for the first time.
“I always thought he's a great quality player. I mean, what he has done this tournament is fantastic. He has won against some top players. Of course Milos [Raonic] and [Borna] Coric. He struggled a little bit with consistency of his results in the past two years.
“But with the quality of the tennis that he possesses, he deserves to be definitely Top 15, maybe Top 10 in the world. He's got that quality and potential, no question about it.
“It's funny that we're going to play first time against each other. We've practised many times. We've known each other obviously for a long time… We both, I'm sure, want to get to the finals. Hopefully we can both be fresh and fit and put on the great show.”