While Roger Federer’s impeccable grass game made him a legend at Wimbledon and Rafael Nadal’s clay superiority saw him reign supreme at Roland Garros, it’s tough to pinpoint the reasons behind Djokovic’s Open Era record five-title haul at the Australian Open. Why there and not the US Open?
Djokovic is dominant on every surface yet half of his 10 grand slam trophies have been captured at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
It is where he had his first major success back in 2008 and he admits the memories of that maiden victory still rush to him every time he returns to the hallowed blue courts.
It could be that the city caters to Djokovic’s every need. The 28-year-old constantly talks about drawing inspiration from the environment around him. He loves nature, spends lots of time outdoors, and is a people person.
“I think most of the players really enjoy being here in Australia, in Melbourne. It’s a country and city that nurtures sport’s values. Whether it’s professional athletes you see along the way, the facilities that are magnificent around here, or just the regular people that jog, spend a lot of time outdoors, take care of themselves. So when you’re in an environment like this, you feel motivated, you feel inspired to perform at your best,” Djokovic said.
The world No1 commences his title defence Monday against 19-year-old Chung Hyeon of South Korea, chasing Roy Emerson’s all-time mark of six Australian Open crowns.
It will be a battle of present vs future, idol vs admirer, veteran vs rookie. Chung, who was named the ATP’s Most Improved Player for 2015, is making his Australian Open debut and the teenager could not have been dealt a tougher hand.
Djokovic has lost just one match here in five years – to Stan Wawrinka in the 2014 quarter-finals – while Chung has only played two previous grand slam main draws, winning just one match. But the South Korean is considered one of the main talents coming up on tour and it comes as no surprise that he considers Djokovic an inspiration.
“I didn’t really try to copy someone but I really like Djokovic, not just his game, but I love how he mentally prepares and stays cool during the match,” Chung told the No Challenges Remaining podcast.
No3 seed Roger Federer begins his campaign today as he takes on Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Like Djokovic, Federer has had great success here in the past, winning four titles – the last in 2010.