Sobering news for Federer, Nadal as Djokovic pledges no let-up
January 29, 2008
NOVAK DJOKOVIC had a surprisingly clear head yesterday morning, and a focus to match. Having achieved his ambition for 2008 in the first month of the year, he now has Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and the world's No.1 ranking in his sights.
"Now I'll try to remain consistent with the results and try to get the first two guys in the world," Djokovic said, adding that the gap between them, rankings-points wise, was not huge. "I think I have enough quality to do it.
"Now I look at things different. I think it's probably more relief than pressure for me, because I'm going to get to the rest of the season more relaxed, and just try to play a high level of game. I'm really looking forward to work [on my game] so I can improve and be the first player in the world."
Asked if he could dethrone Federer, whom he defeated in straight sets to reach the Australian Open final, this year, the Serb was categorical. "I always believe that I can reach everything, and I think that's even possible.
"You have to consider that Federer and Nadal have been in the situation for the last three or four years of defending points, and they've been handling it in the best way. We'll see what happens, but now I feel much better, much more confident."
The Djokovic roadshow did not leave Melbourne Park until after 2.30 yesterday morning, having obliged print and electronic media with interviews that ran almost as long as his four-set triumph over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. There had been plans to mark his maiden grand slam win - "I'll keep that a secret, because we have special ways of celebrating," he said on Sunday night - but they were put on hold.
"I sat down with my family [at their rented apartment] for a little while, we just talked about things, smiling and laughing, then I went to bed," the 20-year-old said. "I was really tired, but the real celebration is waiting for me."
That may come as early as tomorrow, when he arrives in Belgrade to a welcome that is sure to compensate for any lack of immediate partying. Djokovic estimates 20,000 people were outside government house last year after he, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic all made the semi-finals of the French Open, and he has heard talk of a similar reception this time.
He has been flooded with congratulatory messages, including from football great Diego Maradona and several current stars. "You just start to realise how big a deal this is, how much all the professional athletes from all different sports around the world are appreciating that," he said.
He had also heard from fellow players, but refused to name who - although he admitted Federer wasn't one of them. "Roger? No, no Roger."
Djokovic again praised Tsonga for his role in the fairytale, saying the pair "played amazing through the whole tournament" and deserved their place in the final. Yet it was his semi-final against Federer that has most emboldened him.
"In the first couple of matches we played, I was thinking, 'OK, I'm going to try to play my best tennis, try to prove that I'm a good tennis player.' Now, things have changed. I get to the matches with more belief that I can win, and that I want to win. There's a slight difference - he feels it, I feel it much more."
Djokovic reflected on the relative lack of support he was afforded by the Rod Laver Arena crowd on Sunday night, and said that Tsonga, as the underdog, was an understandable choice. "People like to see him, the way he plays, the way he celebrates," he said. "I don't think you enjoy too much if the people support the other player, but it kind of lifts you up a little bit, gives you motivation to be really aggressive. [But] to have more support than your opponent is always a better option."
He was happy just to have his family share in his breakthrough, and hoped the experience would spur promising brothers Marko and Djordje to similar feats. "I'll make them work for that. They've been here, they've lived the moment with me, and it means a lot to them.
"Having the people which supported me the most through all my life and career, I am extremely happy that I can celebrate and live this moment with them. I gave them yesterday night the trophy, and I was so proud to even see them holding [it], because it's not just my success, it's theirs as well."