Novak Djokovic declared on Saturday that he “likes his chances” of winning a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown, despite lingering injury worries.
After missing last year’s tournament when he was deported over his Covid vaccination stance, the Serbian star is back at Melbourne Park and in sizzling form.
He ended the 2022 season by winning the ATP Finals and began the new year with his 92nd career title at the Adelaide International.
He tweaked a hamstring in Adelaide and is still getting treatment, but insisted he was ready for another two-week campaign to potentially win a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam.
“I’ve been struggling with that a bit, to be honest, the last seven days,” he said of the injury.
“But it’s hopefully not a major concern. So far I’ve been able to train, compete and play points, practice sets. So that’s a positive sign.
“Obviously I’m being a bit more cautious. I’m not going full out on the training sessions, conserving the energy for next week. Hopefully it won’t cause an issue for me then.”
Seeded four, the 35-year-old faces Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena in round one and said that despite the injury niggle “I like my chances”.
“I always like my chances. I train as hard as really anybody out there,” he added.
“There’s a lot of youngsters now that are very hungry, that want to win. They want to take a scalp off you on the big stadium. I know that.
“But experience of being in these kind of particular circumstances helps I think to have the right approach and do things in a proper way.
“Because I know when I’m healthy and playing my best, on this court (Rod Laver Arena) I have chances really against anybody.”
- Warm reception -
Djokovic was deported from Australia on the eve of the 2022 Grand Slam after a high-profile legal battle.
The move divided opinion in Melbourne, a city that endured some of the longest lockdowns in the world at the height of the pandemic.
But he was warmly welcomed on his return at Adelaide and on Rod Laver Arena on Friday evening in a charity match against Nick Kyrgios.
“I’m very grateful for the kind of energy and reception, love and support,” he said, adding that trying to be the best still motivated him as he strives to tie long-time rival Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam haul.
The Spanish great is the top seed and defending champion at Melbourne Park after making the most of Djokovic’s absence last year to beat Daniil Medvedev in a five-set thriller.
But Nadal is struggling for form and lost his two opening matches this season at the United Cup.
“That’s why I keep on playing professional tennis, competition tennis, because I want to be the best, I want to win the biggest tournaments in the world,” said the Serb.
“There is no secret about it. It doesn’t get bigger than this.
“It’s also one of the biggest reasons why I was really looking forward to come back to Australia, because of my record here.
“I really love playing in Rod Laver Arena, particularly night sessions. I’ve had plenty of success that hopefully can continue this year.”