Djokovic ready for Australian Open surprises
Novak Djokovic was the best tennis player in the world last year, the first man in five years to finish consecutive seasons in the No 1 spot.
He won six titles, more matches than anyone else and on Monday will start looking for his fourth Australian Open, and third title in a row.
But before then, Djokovic was the world's third best player, trying to somehow climb those tough last few steps. And as Bernard Tomic's reinvigoration coincides with his temporary estrangement from the Australian Davis Cup team, the Serbian had an interesting point to make, nominating his country's win over France at the end of 2010 as one of the key turning points in a career that took off from there.
Djokovic went on a long, unbeaten run after leading his team to the victory, winning the Australian, Wimbledon and US titles, and moving into the No 1 slot for the first time.
''The Davis Cup title came in the right moment,'' Djokovic said. ''I believe that title, that feeling of sharing one of the biggest titles in our sport with my team for our country, in our country, was one of the best feelings I experienced as a tennis player on the court.
''That was a great confidence boost and helped me to, afterwards, believe in myself, in my abilities on the court more. When I started that winning streak in Australia, winning the second grand slam trophy in 2011, when you get such a great start of the year then things are a bit easier, you know, mentally, for the continuation of the season.
''Davis Cup is a very unique competition. You play for your country. There is a different feeling to it. Also you are in a team competition so it doesn't depend only from you, your result, what you do on the court. You also have to play well in order to get selected to play the matches.''
Djokovic had another strong season last year but, after outlasting Rafael Nadal in an Australian final that stretched almost six hours, was unable to win another major title, reaching the finals at the French and US Opens and falling in a Wimbledon semi-final. The 25-year-old will play Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, an opponent he is wary of given his time spent in the top 20, in the first round of a tournament he feels he knows how to play well.
''From my personal experience, I like playing here because it's after probably five, six, seven weeks of break with no official tournament,'' Djokovic said. ''So you get time to recover, regroup, recharge your batteries mentally, physically, try to get ready for the new season with four, five weeks of good practice. You come here fresh.
''This is my most successful grand slam. But [it] is also known for a lot of surprises. The Australian Open always brings something interesting.''