Djokovic hopes to carry 'perfect' form into Aussie Open

Novak Djokovic celebrating after beating Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-2 in the Qatar Open final. He now leads their head-to-head rivalry 24-23.
Novak Djokovic celebrating after beating Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-2 in the Qatar Open final. He now leads their head-to-head rivalry 24-23.PHOTO: REUTERS

DOHA • Novak Djokovic will begin the defence of his Australian Open title from Jan 18 with the ominous warning to flagging rivals that he is in the form of his life.

Speaking after his destruction of Rafael Nadal at the Qatar Open on Saturday - with both players saying afterwards that the Serb played perfect tennis - the world No. 1 said he "expected" to play at the same level at this year's first Grand Slam.

"I played pretty much perfect tennis today. From the very beginning, I managed to get every shot the way I wanted," he said.

"The way I played today gives me great satisfaction.

"I'm hoping that I can actually peak and play as well as I did today in Melbourne."

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    Sets dropped by Novak Djokovic at the Qatar Open


    Career titles for Djokovic after winning the Qatar Open


    Wins against rival Rafael Nadal in their career head-to-head record, overtaking the Spaniard's 23

If he does, then Australia is in for a treat, even if it is bad news for his competitors.

He beat a hapless Nadal 6-1, 6-2 - the most lopsided result in any of their 47 meetings - with a level of tennis rarely seen.

Even his 14-time Grand Slam opponent described Djokovic's game as "stratospheric".

"I know nobody playing tennis like this ever," said Nadal, suggesting that not even Roger Federer, in his prime, could have matched the Serb.

Among Djokovic's achievements in the week-long Doha warm-up: He did not drop a set in five matches, secured a 60th career title and edged ahead of Nadal for the first time in their personal rivalry, 24-23.

But now he turns his attention to Melbourne and the Australian Open, the season's opening Grand Slam.

"My thoughts are only directed to Melbourne and what I need to do there," he said.

"The week that I have before the Australian Open starts will actually be very useful also for me because I have played a lot, trained very hard, played a great five matches here."

Last year, he beat Britain's Andy Murray in four sets to secure his fifth Australian Open.

His form in 2015, when he won three of the four Grand Slams, has led to predictions that he could claim all four this year, a feat not achieved since Rod Laver in 1969.

If there is one doubt he takes from Doha though is that he has a niggling arm injury, which he admits he has received treatment for, but played down its importance on Saturday.

"I don't think it's too serious," said Djokovic.

"I don't see it as a hindrance, possible hindrance for (the) Australian Open.

"It appears time to time, but it's nothing that really is major that I will be concerned about."

For Nadal, who flew to Australia straight after his defeat, the Grand Slam tournament cannot come quickly enough.

He spent all week in Doha rebuilding his confidence after a poor 2015, only for it to be bruised once again by Djokovic.

Despite that, he maintains he can do well in Melbourne, where he has won once, in 2009, beating Federer in the final.

"The real thing is I had a positive week," said the Spaniard.

"I am playing well, and I'm gonna keep working hard to try to be ready for Australia.

"And I think I will be. I am motivated for it.

"And Australia is a different story, different conditions."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Djokovic hopes to carry 'perfect' form into Aussie Open'. Print Edition | Subscribe