Australian Open 2016: Novak Djokovic brushes aside talk his focus is on missing French Open

Australian Open 2016: Novak Djokovic brushes aside talk his focus is on missing French Open

Novak Djokovic arrives at Melbourne Park a bit like a kid who needs a Gary Ablett card to complete his set, but opens a packet only to find a Scott Pendlebury card, of which he already has five.

Of course it's nice to have the chance to collect another Pendlebury card, but it won't quite be the same until he's given the opportunity to add Ablett to his album.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a shot during a practice session, ahead of the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a shot during a practice session, ahead of the Australian Open.

Photo: AP

Ablett is the French Open, the lone grand slam event that Djokovic is yet to win. At 28, and the winner of 10 major titles, including three last year, victory at Roland Garros has to be the main game this year for the Serb world No. 1. But all he can do now is strive to take another Pendlebury card - the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup he first laid hands on eight years ago.

Speaking on Sunday at Melbourne Park, Djokovic said he had narrowed his gaze on the last fortnight of January, and a sixth Australian Open crown. "It's only the beginning of the season. It's too early to talk about what I can or can't do later in the season," Djokovic said when questioned about the only tangible way he could improve at the majors in 2016, after last year's French Open final to Stan Wawrinka.

But Djokovic was steadfast that there was plenty to play for at this grand slam as well. "I'm here to focus on the Australian Open. I think, as all the players taking part in this year's first grand slam, I would like to do the best I can and fight for the trophy, 2015 was the best season and best year of my life undoubtedly. I enjoyed every moment spent on the court. I'll try to obviously carry that confidence and high level of performance that I've had, especially towards the end of the year, into the new season.


"Honestly, as I said, it's just the beginning. I try to take one tournament at a time."

Having been so successful in Australia, it's no surprise that Melbourne holds a special place in Djokovic's heart. But it's not just the fact he's been a winner here so often that has endeared the event to the champion. So, too, has the lifestyle.

"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 sports 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 be here, to actually perform at your best. This being one of the four most important and prestigious tournaments we have in sport, of course it always does in a way extract the best out of each player."

Djokovic opens his Melbourne Park campaign on Monday, when he takes on Korean teenager and World No. 51 Hyeon Chung in the third match of the day session on Rod Laver Arena. The man searching for his fifth Australian Open title in six years said he knew little of his first opponent, but was wary of the youngster who has been dubbed the next great hope of Asian men's tennis.

"Yeah, he's one of the rising stars of the tennis world. I haven't seen him play too much, honestly. I know that he's a tall fellow. He hits pretty solid from back of the court.

"He doesn't have maybe as powerful a serve as you would expect for his height. But I'm going to, of course, do a little bit more analysis and research there and get myself ready."

Daniel Cherny

Daniel is an Age sports reporter.

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