Four time tournament champion Novak Djokovic opens his bid for a fifth Australian Open Monday night against Lukas Lacko in the first round.
The Serb comes in as the hottest men’s player having won 24 straight matches. And he’s dominated at the Australian Open winning the last three years.
And this week marks his official debut with new coach Boris Becker. However with temps well into the 90s and even the 100s, it’s going to make it tough on everyone especially Djokovic who’s had his share of struggles in the heat.
Here’s Novak’s full presser from the Australian Open:
Q. Do you make any specific preparations when you know you’re in for a very hot week like this?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yes. I mean, the experience of playing many times in the Australian summer over the years definitely helps for the preparations.
But I don’t change anything in particular in my approach. Everything is more or less the same. I am expecting to play in a big heat. You always have to expect because you can’t really predict Melbourne’s weather, it’s changing a lot.
But I remember the 2008, ’9 and ’10, there were several days I played in extreme heat. So I know how tough it is.
But it’s the same for myself and my opponent so you have to adjust to it.
Q. How does it affect you physically? Does it restrict your breathing?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. Last couple years, everything has been, yeah, very all right with my health, with my physical state. I’ve been working, of course, a lot with my team, making sure I’m fit and ready to play best‑of‑five in extreme conditions.
Q. What are your thoughts on the speed of the courts this year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: For me the court, Rod Laver Arena, is the same like last year. Last year it was slightly faster comparing to the years before, but no any major difference, anything significant that I would notice, yeah.
Q. Rafa said he thought the slower courts made for more entertaining tennis for the fans. Do you agree that slow courts are better for fans?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, the courts are definitely, generally speaking, all the tournaments throughout the season, they’re slower than they used to be 15, 20, 30 years ago. Years ago you played most of the Grand Slams on grass courts. Now you have hard courts that are slower than they used to be.
I think it’s fine having the diversity, the different speed of the court, different countries, different tournaments. It’s normal to expect because the conditions affect the speed that the ball travels through the air and the surface itself.
Q. You think there’s enough diversity in court speed now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I think so.
Q. You’ve had a couple weeks now working with Boris. Has he brought what you hoped he would bring to your camp?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, well, it’s been a couple of weeks. I’m really glad to have Boris onboard. Obviously I’m glad to see there is that many tennis legends coming back and being active as coaches in the teams of many active players.
It’s really positive for the sport. It attracts a lot of attention. Obviously, they have won so many Grand Slams between themselves, they’ve all been No. 1′s of the world, they’ve been champions, they know what we all go through in particular moments, especially in the Grand Slams. They can identify themselves through us. I guess that’s where the biggest help would come from the mental aspect and obviously working with some elements in the game.
We look forward to working with each other. It’s just the beginning. He has committed to work with me and travel with me for more weeks than I thought he would, so I’m really excited about that. We’ll see how it goes.
Q. How did it come about?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’ve talked with Marian Vijda, that has been my head coach for over eight years. I won with him every title in my life. You know, he has worked as a coach and he has been a player, involved in this sport over 35 years. So he needed to spend a little bit more time at home.
So we considered some other options. He actually had also the initiative of recommending somebody that has been in similar situations and has similar mindset, knows what I’m going through, and could help me from that mental point of view.
Boris came to our mind. We contacted him last September. That’s where it started.
Q. Have you found yourself watching reruns of famous 1980s matches that he appeared in?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, yes, yes. I was trying to analyze his game (laughter).
But I still haven’t played with him. I really look forward to practicing with him. He has problems with his ankles a little bit. He had surgery recently. Obviously he’s one of the big names in the sport, has won over 60 titles, Grand Slams, No. 1, Davis Cup. You know, I have the utmost respect for what he has achieved in his career. The great serve. Obviously at the time the construction of the point was different. Everything was faster. Served and volleyed many times.
But tennis has evolved in a way because of the technology. Now the game is based on the baseline, longer rallies and so forth. Well, I believe with his great volleys, that aggressive kind of mindset also, from that point of view he can help me.
Q. Given the success that you’ve had with Marian, is it a bit of a risk changing it like this?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Whenever you make a change in life, it’s a potential risk, right? How is it going to affect you?
But I don’t want to think from that perspective. I’m really excited about this cooperation. I’m excited about this partnership that I have with Boris that also has been approved and supported by Marian, who is still in the team. He’s still going to travel with me on certain tournaments that Boris is not going to be there. We’re going to spend a lot of time on preparations.
Also they have a great communication. All I see is positive results, and hope for that obviously. I cannot predict or promise anything now.
Q. Was the approach to Boris after the US Open?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, it was after the Chinese tournaments.
Q. Was the success of Ivan Lendl a factor in the thought originally?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, no. I’ve been asked that question before. But, no, it hasn’t affected me for my decision.
Q. Andy Murray, do you think he’s still one of your main rivals even though he’s just back after back surgery?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Absolutely. Andy for last five, six years has been one of the best players in the world. Especially in the last two and a half years, he has won a couple of Grand Slams, Olympic gold medal. He’s a main contender to win always any big title wherever he plays because he has improved his game significantly since he started working with Ivan. He’s been more aggressive on the court. Obviously grass and faster hard courts are his most preferred surfaces, I think.
In looking at the results that he has made here in Melbourne Park makes him one of the favorites.
Q. Except when he comes up against you.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not going to answer that (smiling).
Q. Is it possible to win after three months out of the game?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course. I mean, you can’t really forget playing tennis. After a few months, I’m sure that he has made a wise decision. Sure he had a big problem with his back, had surgery.
We practiced. We played a little bit in Abu Dhabi. He’s striking the ball really well. Obviously it’s going to take a little bit of time to get into that match play mode. I’m sure that he’s going to be just fine.
Q. Lleyton Hewitt, obviously he’s getting on a little bit in his age. When he beats Federer, then Murray in the exhibition match, do you think he’s a bigger threat than he was a few months ago?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, definitely. In Australia he’s always one of the most difficult players to play against because he has a big crowd support. He loves playing on Rod Laver Arena. He loves competing and trying to win every match that he plays on.
He’s extra motivated when he plays one of the top players. He loves that. Night sessions here. Obviously in the last couple years he was struggling a little bit with his injuries. Whenever he’s fit and ready, he still can beat anyone. He has proven that winning against Roger in Brisbane. He’s in a great form. We can expect him to make some damage here in Melbourne Park.
Q. Juan Martin del Potro won the Sydney tournament in an impressive manner. Do you see him as a threat for No. 1 in 2014?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think also Juan Martin has improved his game. I think his physical state also. He’s fitter. I feel that on the court he’s ready to go the distance. That was, I believe, his biggest issue in the past. He played a couple of tournaments well, then didn’t play for next few weeks or month, couldn’t really sustain that level of consistency physically.
He’s very tall. For him moving around the court in the big rallies is definitely twice as hard for us. But he has a big serve. He has a big forehand. He won a Grand Slam. He’s definitely one of the best players in the world.
I believe he has the potential to win Grand Slams and to be definitely one of the players to fight for No. 1. Why not?
In this year or next year, that’s something that I don’t know exactly. I mean, depends really of how consistently he can play throughout the whole year. It’s not about playing one or two Grand Slams well, or a few months. In order to be No. 1 of the world, you have to play consistently well 10 months.
Q. Do you see him mentally tough enough?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I think he is, yes.
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