Tennis

Djokovic deflects Becker jab about work-rate

Novak Djokovic said he wasn't planning to replace Boric Becker in his coaching team and deflected criticism from the German about his work-rate as he prepared to defend his Australian Open title.

Djokovic, seeking a record seventh Australian Open crown after being ousted as world 
No. 1 by Andy Murray, heads into the year's first Grand Slam with long-time coach Marian Vajda and his newly appointed assistant Dusan Vemic.

"I'm not thinking of bringing anybody in. This is the coaching team that there is," said Djokovic, who split with Becker after three trophy-filled seasons late last year.

Djokovic sidestepped a question about Becker's remarks that the Serb's training intensity had dropped during a sudden plunge in form in the second half of 2016.

"We've had amazing success. It's all I can say. I don't want to go back and comment on anything. I kept a very friendly relationship with Boris. We just went separate ways," Djokovic said.

In Melbourne, Djokovic, seeded second, will be hoping to show he's back to his best after a period of sustained dominance abruptly ended last year after the French Open.

The Serb bettered Murray in a thrilling final in Doha earlier this month, a performance that suggested he may be regaining his edge, although he insisted he was never "invincible".

"Nobody is invincible," said Djokovic, who plays Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the first round. "But (I know) how it feels on the court if you get over-confident, that's why I don't want to get into that kind of state of mind.

"I still want to put myself in a position where I'm quite even to other players, fight for this trophy as anybody else, even though I'm the defending champion."

Djokovic said getting back to world No. 1 wasn't his top priority. He starts the season with 12 Grand Slam titles, two shy of Rafael Nadal's tally and five off Roger Federer's 17.

"As a consequence of the results, if I become No. 1, that's great. Of course, that's what I want. But it's not my main priority," he said.

Meanwhile, Murray is looking to avoid becoming the first man in the post-1968 Open era to lose six Grand Slam finals at the same Major.

His coach Ivan Lendl lost five finals at the US Open before he broke through in New York in 1985.

Murray, who opens his campaign against Ukraine's Illya Marchenko, says he's in a better position this time to break his Australian Open jinx.

"I obviously feel pretty confident after the way the last season finished," Murray said.

"I do love it here. I love the conditions. I think I have a chance to win here." 
- WIRE SERVICES

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