For almost two decades, we have become accustomed to Novak Djokovic winning Grand Slam tournaments. But seeing the world No. 1 sobbing on the floor as he celebrated his Australian Open win with his family and team was a first. He would later say he had “emotionally broken down”.
The straight-set victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in Melbourne on Sunday had historic significance. It was his 10th Australian Open, which made Djokovic the second man to win more than 10 titles in a single Slam, and a 22nd Grand Slam, a men’s major win record he now shares with Rafael Nadal. . The win also moved him back to the No. 1 spot in the world for a record 374th week.
Even as he returned to his seat on the pitch for the trophy presentation, Djokovic hid his face in a towel, with television cameras picking up the sound of his continued crying.
But speaking to reporters after his win, he said the outpouring of emotion was not just a reaction to what he had achieved, but also a response to what he had faced in the past. last weeks.
The 35-year-old said at his press conference: “Of course when I walked into my club I just think emotionally broken down there and torn with especially my mum and my brother, when I made them a hug, because up until that point I didn’t allow myself, I guess, to be distracted by things off the pitch or anything that was going on in dealing with an injury, things that were happening off the pitch as well, which could easily have been a big disruption to my concentration, to my game.
“It took tremendous mental energy to stay present, to stay focused, to take things day by day and really see how far I can go.”
Last year, Djokovic was unable to defend his title after being expelled from the country due to his Covid-19 vaccination status. This year at Melbourne Park he suffered a hamstring injury and had to deal with the fallout of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of Russian fans at the Australian Open, which Djokovic said required “an enormous amount of mental and emotional disturbance”. energy” to stay focused on tennis.
His father was not present in the players’ box for the final, a situation which Djokovic said made them both sad.
“I thought things were going to calm down in terms of the media and everything, but it’s not,” the Serb said.
“We both agreed that it would probably be better if he wasn’t here. It hurts him and me a lot because these are very special and unique times. Who knows if they start again.
“So it wasn’t easy for him. I saw him after the game, of course. Yeah, he wasn’t feeling his best, let’s say, although he was very happy to hug me and well safe with everything.
“I could see he was a bit sad. Look, that’s what it is. I think that in the end also what he told me is that it is important that I feel good on the court, I win the match, and he is there for me.
“If it’s going to be better for me after the game for him not to be in the box, then so be it. That was the whole conversation.
“In a way, I’m also sad that he wasn’t there, present, in the stands. But he was throughout the tournament, so that’s fine. In the end, we have a happy ending .
Djokovic revealed his injury meant he wasn’t optimistic heading into the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, saying it was ‘just a matter of surviving every game. , trying to advance to the next round”.
His trainer Goran Ivanisevic told reporters that Djokovic had “77 therapies a day” to try to cure the hamstring problem that had put his participation in doubt.
“Let me put it like this. I’m not saying 100%, but 97% of the players, on Saturday when you have the MRI results, you go straight to the referee’s office and withdraw from the tournament. But not him,” Ivanisevic said.
“He comes from another space. His brain works differently. I’ve been with him for four years, but sometimes that’s how his brain works. He gave everything. 77 therapies per day. Every day was getting better and better. I did not expect that. Honestly, I was shocked.
From the fourth round, Djokovic said, his leg started to feel better and he started playing his best tennis.
Now tied with Nadal on the all-time men’s list for Grand Slams, Djokovic said he was “motivated to win as many tournaments as possible”.
“I really don’t want to stop here. I have no intention of stopping there,” he said. “I feel good in my tennis. I know that when I feel good physically, mentally present, I have a chance to win any slam against anyone.
“I don’t know how many more years I’m going to play or how many slams I’m going to play. It depends on various things. It doesn’t just depend on my body.
“I think it’s extremely important for me to be, of course, the first to have the support and the love of my loved ones, and the ability to go out and play and keep the balance with private life, but at the same time having the mental clarity or – how should I say – aspirations to really strive to chase those trophies.
“Physically, I can keep myself in shape. Of course, 35 is not 25, even if I want to believe it. But I still feel that there is time ahead of me. Let’s see how far I go.