Tennis

Djokovic tailors his game to beat Murray, Federer and Nadal

Djokovic says he needs to work twice as hard to stay on top

The battle to stay at the top of men's tennis is like a fight to keep hungry wolves at bay, Novak Djokovic said yesterday after clinching a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title with a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) victory over Andy Murray.

World No. 1 Djokovic is currently dominating the men's game like Roger Federer did a decade ago, but he is keen to ensure that he stays ahead of a ferocious chasing pack that includes Murray.

"I heard a nice metaphor yesterday about the wolf running up the hill being much hungrier than the wolf standing on top of the hill," he said.

"I believe that all the guys who are out there fighting each week to get to No. 1 are very hungry to get to No. 1 and I know that... I think you need to work twice as hard when you're up there."

Djokovic revealed that he's tailored his game to beat his top three rivals - Rafael Nadal, Federer and Murray - and propel himself further away from them. So far this year, after his phenomenal 2015 season of three Major triumphs, Djokovic has hammered Nadal 6-1, 6-2 in Doha, Federer 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the Australian Open semi-finals and Murray yesterday.

"I prepare myself the best for these three guys - Nadal, Federer and Murray. Those three guys are the biggest rivals I have, and no disrespect to other players," said Djokovic, who has been top of the rankings for 182 weeks. "Of course, it was very pleasing to play the way I played against all these guys.

"Against Nadal (in Doha), it was the best-of-three sets, but here best-of-five. I played amazing first two sets against Roger, then I lost the third, and it was very close in the fourth."I think the experience of playing so many matches against these guys, being on the big stage, knowing what's at stake, knowing the importance and value of these tournaments and fighting for the trophy, I think that helps.

"These three guys have been the most dominant ones next to me and I have been trying to analyse my game with my team and try to get myself to a high level."When I get to play them, I know exactly what kind of game plan to execute."

There is no doubt that on present form, Djokovic is still safely ahead of his rivals.

After appearing in all four Grand Slam finals last year and winning three, the 28-year-old Serb was a heavy favourite before the tournament began to join Roy Emerson as a six-time winner in Australia. After being pushed to five sets by Gilles Simon in the fourth round, Djokovic ramped up his level in the second week, ending Federer's run with a stunning attack in the opening two sets.

He was just as imperious in the opening set against Murray, racing through it in 28 minutes before the Scot settled into a rhythm and pushed him hard for the next two sets. Yet it was essentially Djokovic's ability to seize his own opportunities and end Murray's momentum that clinched the contest and allowed him to celebrate by kissing the blue hard court on Rod Laver Arena for a sixth time.

Djokovic said he had been spurred on by the opportunity to match Emerson's mark and draw level with Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg on 11 Grand Slams.

"I can't lie and say I didn't think about it. Of course, it was at the back of my mind. It served as a great motivation and I tried to use it as a positive."

Djokovic, who has now appeared in the last five Grand Slam finals, winning four, acknowledged he is playing at a different level to his rivals, but is keen not to rest on his laurels.

"I believe that I can win every match I play (and) I'm playing the tennis of my life in the last 15 months. The results are showing that," he said. "But you can get a very big slap from karma. I don't want that." - Wire Services.

NOVAK BY THE NUMBERS

6

Novak Djokovic has 
now won six Australian Opens (2008, 2011-13, 2015-16), matching the record of Roy Emerson (1961, 1963-67).

46

Djokovic now owns 46 hardcourt titles, level with Andre Agassi and only behind Roger Federer (60).

11

Djokovic has 11 Grand Slam titles, drawing level on the all-time list with Rod Laver and Bjorn 
Borg.

7

Djokovic has won seven straight tournaments.

11

Djokovic has beaten Andy Murray 11 times in 12 clashes since losing to him in the 2013 Wimbledon 
final. - Reuters.

australian openUncategorisednovak djokovicANDY MURRAYRoger FedererRafael Nadal