at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
In years past, Novak Djokovic marked his victories at the Australian Open with rowdy late-night celebrations and bleary-eyed photo shoots the next morning in downtown Melbourne.
This year’s win made history but inspired a more sober reaction.
After beating Andy Murray to become the only man to win three consecutive Australian Open titles, the No 1-ranked player had no time for immediate celebration.
Instead, he booked an early Monday flight home to start getting in shape for his next challenge: the clay courts of Europe.
He’s got the Davis Cup next weekend and a few months away is the French Open - the one Major that has eluded Djokovic. He now has six Grand Slam tournament trophies altogether, including four overall from the Australian Open and one each from Wimbledon and the US Open in 2011. He came close last year at Roland Garros but lost in the final to clay-court master Rafael Nadal.
“Of course, I want to go all the way in the French Open,” Djokovic said at his post-match news conference just after midnight. His goal for the year is a big one, he said, when asked if he would choose a Roland Garros title over his No 1-ranking.
“I’ll take everything,” the 25-year-old Djokovic said. “I have no reason not to be confident in myself.”
Djokovic never lacked self-confidence and his dominating performance at the Australian Open showed just why.
The elite group Djokovic heads includes No 2 Roger Federer, No 3 Murray and Nadal, whose creaky knees caused him to sit out this tournament and yield his No 4 ranking to David Ferrer. Djokovic beat Ferrer in an 89-minute semi-final he said he played “perfectly.”
The 17-time Grand Slam-winner Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and now Murray have combined to win 33 of the past 34 Majors.
“I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment,” Djokovic said after beating Ferrer.
His 6-7(2) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-2 victory over Murray on Sunday night showed his mental toughness and supreme fitness in a match that contained riveting rallies between two of the best returners in the game.
The win deprived Murray of his chance to capitalise on his breakthrough year in 2012, when he won an Olympic gold and his first Major title at the US Open. “I’m full of joy right now,” Djokovic said. “It’s going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, that’s for sure.”
The season resumes next weekend with Serbia’s Davis Cup tie against Belgium, which was why Djokovic flew home early so he could celebrate with the people closest to him.
“In life you don’t get many opportunities to win Grand Slams. As a tennis player, that’s a pinnacle of the ambitions and of the success,” he said. “So I will try to enjoy it for a few days with the people I love the most - family, friends and team.”
Djokovic apologised to reporters for skipping Monday’s traditional post-victory news conference.
“The main reason is because I want to get to Europe as quick as possible so I can be ready for the Davis Cup tie,” said Djokovic, who led Serbia to its only Davis Cup title in 2010. “I hope I find your understanding for that.”
After he wrapped up his media obligations, Djokovic went online at about 4.30am to post a note of thanks to his fans.
“My dear friends,” he wrote in a personal blog post that he also tweeted. “(I’m) laying in bed now and thinking ‘Novak, you are 4 times AO champion,’ That’s quite something, right? I will have to repeat it in my mind for a while to sink in.”
“This is just the start of the year!” Djokovic wrote, ahead of catching his flight. “Plenty of things ahead of us, starting from tomorrow morning... Stay tuned.”