Novak Djokovic: ‘Tree-hugging’ the Serb’s secret weapon at Australian Open

Serbia's Novak Djokovic speaks at a press conference in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic speaks at a press conference in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open. Picture: Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP

Published Jan 13, 2024


Novak Djokovic said Saturday he had overcome a worrisome wrist injury ahead of the Australian Open while revealing one of the secrets to his success in Melbourne was hugging trees.

The world number one and top seed will begin his title defence on Sunday against Croatian qualifier Dino Prizmic as he targets an 11th Australian Open title and a record 25th Grand Slam crown.

The Serbian superstar hurt his right wrist in training during the United Cup this month and needed repeat treatment during his defeat to Alex de Minaur.

But he said it was much better.

"My wrist is good. I had time from the last match against De Minaur in the United Cup to my first match here to recover," he said.

"I've been training well. Practice sessions pain-free so far. It's good. It's all looking good. Let's see how it goes."

He added: "It's not as bad as some other injuries I had here... I can't predict whether it's going to come back. Once I start playing more matches, stress levels go higher. I don't know. We have to find out."

Djokovic is once again the overwhelming favourite to win the first Grand Slam of the year.

He has not lost at the Australian Open since 2018 and has won every final he has reached at Melbourne Park.

The 36-year-old revealed that he has long followed certain rituals when in Australia, including spending time alone in Melbourne's Botanical Gardens, which borders the tennis centre.

"I'm not superstitious, but I do obviously like to visit certain places that have brought me luck and make me feel good," he said.

"For example, Botanical Gardens just nearby, it's a wonderful park where I like to spend time and just be by myself in nature, just grounding, hugging trees, climbing trees and stuff. I love to do that. So I've done that for, yeah, last 15 years.

"Whether that's the secret of success here in Australia or not, I don't know, but it has definitely made me feel good."

Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2023 final to kickstart a year that he finished as world number one after winning three of the four majors, with only Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon denying him a clean sweep.

In total, Djokovic claimed seven titles to take his career haul to 98, including a record-equalling seventh ATP Tour Finals crown.

"I'm just hoping I can start the season in a way that I have been starting my seasons, most of my seasons, throughout my career, with a win here in Australia, in Melbourne," he said.

"It's my favourite place, no doubt. The court where I've done great things and achieved my greatest Grand Slam results.

"I hope that I'm going to be able to, if not play at the level that I did last year, then be very close to that, because that was one of the best tennis levels that I've played, ever played, here in Australia last year."