For almost two decades, we have become accustomed to Novak Djokovic winning grand slams. But it was a first to see the world No. 1 sobbing on the floor as he celebrated his Australian Open victory with his family and team. He would later say that 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, making Djokovic only the second man to win more than 10 titles in a single slam, and a 22nd grand slam, a men’s record for major wins he now shares with Rafael Nadal. The win also returned him to the world No. 1 spot for a record-extending 374th week.
Even as he returned to his seat on the pitch for the trophy presentation, Djokovic hid his face in a towel as the television cameras picked up the sound of his incessant crying.
But speaking to reporters after his victory, he explained that the outburst of emotions was not just a reaction to what he had accomplished, but also a reaction to what he had been dealing with in recent weeks.
The 35-year-old said in his press conference: “Of course when I went into my box I think I was emotionally broken down and torn there with especially my mum and my brother when I gave them a hug because up to that point I was standing by myself don’t allow, I think, to be distracted by things off the field or whatever happened when dealing with an injury, things that happened off the field as well, which could have easily been a major disruption to my focus, to my game .
“It took tremendous mental energy to really stay present, stay focused, take things one day at a time 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 vaccination status against Covid-19. This year he suffered a hamstring injury at Melbourne Park and had to deal with the fallout from his father, Srdjan, who was filmed with a group of Russian supporters at the Australian Open. energy” to stay focused on tennis.
His father was not present in the players’ box for the final, a situation that Djokovic said saddened them both.
“I thought things would calm down in terms of media and stuff, but it didn’t,” said the Serb.
“We both agreed it would probably be better if he wasn’t here. That hurts me and him a lot, because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows, maybe they’ll repeat it again.
“So it wasn’t easy for him. I saw him, of course, after the game. Yes, he wasn’t feeling his best, let’s say, even though he was very happy to cuddle me and of course with everything.
“I saw that he was a little sad. Look, it is what it is. I think in the end he also told me that it is important that I feel good on the pitch, that I win the game and that he is there for me.
“If it will be better for me than the result of the match, so that he is not in the box, then so be it. That was the whole conversation.
“In a way, I also regret that he was not there, present, in the stands. But he was there for the whole tournament, so it’s fine. In the end, we have a happy ending.”
Djokovic revealed his injury meant he was not optimistic heading into the Australian Open, the first grand slam of the year.
His coach Goran Ivanisevic told reporters Djokovic was having “77 therapies a day” to try and cure the hamstring problem that had cast doubt on his participation.
“Let me put it this way. I’m not saying 100%, but 97% of the players, on Saturday when you get the results of the MRI, you go straight to the referee’s office and withdraw from the tournament. But not him,” said Ivanisevic.
‘He’s from another room. His brain works differently. I’ve been with him for four years, but it’s still how his brain works sometimes. He gave everything. 77 therapies per day. Every day was a little bit better and better. I did not expect this. Frankly, 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 grand slams list, Djokovic said he was “motivated to win as many slams as possible.”
“I really don’t want to stop here. I’m not going to stop here,” he said. “I feel good in my tennis. I know that if I feel good physically, mentally present, I have a chance to win every stroke against anyone.
“I don’t know how many years I’m going to play or how many slams I’m going to play. It depends on several things. It doesn’t just depend on my body.
“I think it is extremely important for me to be the first to have the support and love of those closest to me, and the opportunity to go out and play and keep the balance with private life, but at the same time have the mental clarity. or – how should I put it – aspirations to really strive to go after these trophies.
“Physically I can keep myself fit. Of course 35 isn’t 25, even though I’d like to believe it is. But I still feel like there’s time for me. Let’s see how far I get.”