Melbourne: For Novak Djokovic, the formula for success at the Australian Open is simple - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The world number one will try to create history over the next two weeks by becoming the first man to win three straight Australian Open titles in the professional era.
Twelve months ago, Djokovic picked up his fifth grand slam title with victory over Rafa Nadal in an epic final, lasting just short of six hours. Back in Melbourne after a few weeks rest, including a holiday in the Maldives, Djokovic looked fresh and raring to go again as he looks to create history.
"So far so good," the Serb told reporters after taking part in the Australian Open Kids Tennis Day on Friday, which drew a packed crowd to the Rod Laver Arena. We haven't changed much the daily routines in preparing for the new season for the Australian summer. Generally it's all the same. I have the same team of people around me that are making sure that I'm prepared well, so I'm just looking forward to start playing here."
The last man to win three straight titles in Melbourne was Roy Emerson, who won five in a row from 1963-67, his last claimed in the year before tennis turned professional. The hot conditions and its place in the calendar makes the demands of the Australian Open unique but Djokovic, who also won the title in 2008, seems to have worked things out perfectly.
"I like playing here because it's after probably five, six, seven weeks of break with no official tournament," said Djokovic, who plays Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round next week. You get time to recover, regroup, recharge your batteries mentally and physically, try to get ready for the new season with four, five weeks of good practice. You come here fresh. You're motivated and inspired to play some good tennis. Yes, the Australian summer can be brutal sometimes with the heat. But it has been this way for so many years. I got used to it, I know how it feels like to practice, to play in the heat. You've got to go with the flow."
Having reached the final in six of the past eight grand slams, winning four, Djokovic is the clear favourite with the bookmakers. But world number two Roger Federer is gunning for his 18th grand slam title and Djokovic said Andy Murray, who beat him to win his first major at the U.S. Open in September, will be equally dangerous.
"He has become a grand slam and Olympic champion," said Djokovic, who beat Murray in the Melbourne final in 2011 and again in the semi-finals last year. He's great. I think mentally something switched in his head and he just started believing much more in his abilities. He was always a great player, always a contender to win a major title, but now that he's done it, he's definitely right up there, one of the first few favorites for any tournament he plays. He's an all around player, improved his game, stayed committed."
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