World number one Djokovic taking it ‘season by season’

PERTH – World number one Novak Djokovic is hoping his latest trip to Australia is not the last, but admits that at 36 he is now taking it “season by season”.

The Serbian superstar is the king of the Melbourne Park hard courts, winning the Australian Open a record 10 times, with an 11th in his sights next month.

He gets his preparations under way in Perth at the ATP-WTA United Cup on Sunday after another incredible season that brought three more Grand Slam titles for a record 24.

That included another Australian Open, taming Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas 6–3, 7–6 (7–4), 7–6 (7–5) in the 2023 final.

So dominant is Djokovic that he has won four of the last five Australian Opens with the only exception being 2022, when he was kicked out of the country for refusing to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

“I hope it’s not the last, to be honest,” he said of being in Australia again after his arrival in Perth and a late training session on Thursday.

“Coming back to Australia, I’ve always felt like I played my best tennis over the years and had great support. So I’m not sure, I don’t really have a plan (for) what’s going to happen next year.

“I’m kind of taking season by season to see how far it takes me.”

Djokovic’s absence from the 2022 Australian Open saw long-time rival Rafael Nadal add to his only other title at Melbourne Park in 2009.

Nadal, 37, returns after a year away from the sport at the Brisbane International this week following hip surgery, with the two greats set to cross paths in Australia one more time.

Djokovic, who has largely escaped injuries over the years, said he expects the 22-time Grand Slam winner to be as competitive as ever.

“He’s not a kind of a player that will come back to the tour just to play — let’s say — on a medium level, play a few matches,” Djokovic said at an exhibition match in Saudi Arabia before heading to Perth.

“He wants to win titles, he wants to be the best, that’s why he is who he is: a legend of our sport.” – AFP / pic TMR FILE