Novak Djokovic has history on his mind as he sends out early-season warning with Abu Dhabi title

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Novak Djokovic has got Roger Federer’s men’s all-time record of Grand Slams won on his mind but admits it will be a great challenge for him to get there, especially with the young generation stepping up.

Djokovic, who sent out an early warning ahead of the official kick-off of his 2019 season with his 4-6 ,7-5, 7-5 victory over Kevin Anderson to win the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, took his Grand Slam tally to 14 by picking up the Wimbledon and US Open titles within the span of the last five months.

The Serb is currently six majors behind Federer and three adrift of Rafael Nadal, but is likely to keep up the pressure on his rivals this upcoming season considering how he’s recaptured his dominating form in the second half of 2018.

Asked if there is a record he dreams of capturing before the end of his career, Djokovic said: “I would lie if I say I didn’t want to get to as high as Grand Slam wins number possible. That’s definitely the objective, the desire, the goal.

“Those are probably the tournaments where I want to do my best for the rest of my career, however long that’s going to be, and of course trying to also fight for No. 1 with everyone else.”

Djokovic lost just three times in the last six months, but it’s worth noting that all three defeats came against players aged 22 and under (Stefanos Tsitsipas in Toronto, Karen Khachanov in Paris, and Alexander Zverev in London).

On Thursday, the 32-year-old Djokovic conceded that “the face of tennis is changing” due to the influx of new young talent and he believes the ‘Next Gen’ will make it harder for him to stay on top.

“There’s a new generation of players, Nadal and Federer are still there, [Andy] Murray and [Stan] Wawrinka are coming back, Zverev is the leader of this Next Gen… men’s tennis is as good as it can be in terms of competition, in terms of personalities, it’s good to see new faces,” he said after his title victory on Saturday in the UAE capital.

“For me it’s going to be a big challenge and a big ask to stay at such a high level, it’s very demanding especially as a family man. It’s different in the last couple of years. But I like challenge in life, because from the challenges we grow and we learn. So I try to embrace whatever is in front of me, I have to accept it but I’m working for the best.”

Djokovic, who looked in top form throughout the weekend in the UAE, now heads to the Qatar Open in Doha where he faces Bosnian Damir Dzumhur in the opening round.

The final against Anderson was a high-quality affair that ended with what Djokovic described as one of the best match points of his career.

The pair, who faced off in the 2018 Wimbledon final, were fired up and pushed each other to their limits in the deciding set. Anderson, the defending champion, saved three championship points at 4-5 in the decider but succumbed on Djokovic’s fifth opportunity two games later.

“I was much better against him today than I was in Wimbledon or the London Finals. I know my game is getting better and better and I feel it’s at a stage where it’s good enough to beat him. I have to play well, take my opportunities, figure things out, but I feel like I’m right there and I think I further proved that to myself today,” said the sixth-ranked Anderson.

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