Melbourne : Like any new father, Novak Djokovic has quickly developed a new perspective on life and tennis.
The Serbian won his fifth Australian Open title on Sunday, beating Andy Murray 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0 but his thoughts turned to family, rather than the trophy he had just won.
For Djokovic, the win was all the sweeter because it was his first grand slam title since he and his wife Jelena celebrated the birth of their first child last October.
“I think it has deeper meaning, a more intrinsic value now to my life because I’m a father and a husband,” he told a news conference.
“As my life progresses, there are circumstances, situations, events that define these beautiful moments.
“Getting married and becoming a father in the last six months was definitely something that gave me a new energy, something that I never felt before. And right now everything has been going in such a positive direction in my life.
“I’m so grateful for that so I try to live these moments with all my heart.”
Djokovic may have become a doting dad but the 27-year-old also showed that he still has all his fighting instincts after surviving a tough scrap with Briton Murray.
Djokovic was showing signs of fatigue in the third set after the first two had taken more than two and a half hours to complete, and later laughed off suggestions he was faking to throw Murray off his game.
“I’m not going to talk bad things about him in the press or find any excuses or something like this,” Djokovic said.
“I wasn’t cramping. I didn’t call a timeout because I had no reason to call it. I was just weak. I went through the physical crisis in the matter of 20 minutes.
“I haven’t felt that too many times in my career. But knowing in the back of my mind that it was a similar situation two years ago in the Australian Open final, 2013, where two sets went over two hours, it was a similar battle.
“I felt that I had some physical edge over him in that match. That was in the back of my mind. That was something that kept me going. And obviously the importance of the moment, being in finals of a grand slam. I didn’t want to give up. I try never to give up.”
Djokovic now has eight grand slams in total but the Australian Open has been his most successful by far. He has also won Wimbledon twice and the US Open once.
The French Open is the only major to have eluded him and he was reluctant to answer when asked if he would trade one of his wins in Australia for a victory in Paris.
“I’ve had, thankfully many great moments on the court in grand slams. I think every grand slam win is special in its own way. I can’t really compare,” he said.
“This tournament by far has been my most successful tournament in my life, in my career. I enjoy playing here, enjoy coming back.
“I strongly believe everything happens for a reason in life. I try not to waste my energy thinking, ‘what if, what if,’ so forth.
“For a reason I’ve been playing so well here and winning five titles, and for a reason I haven’t won the French Open yet. I’ll keep pushing and keep working and keep believing I can make it, at least once, until my career ends.”
Murray under microscope
Murray blamed Djokovic’s physical problems in their Australian Open final for throwing him off his game but that could hardly explain the meltdown that saw the Scot lose 12 of the last 13 games.
After levelling at one-set apiece, Murray led 2-0 in the third but collapsed to lose the match under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, his fourth defeat in Australian Open finals and third to Djokovic.
The Serb tumbled to the court a couple of times early in the third set and was almost limping between points, but after saving a break point at 3-3, the top seed stormed to his fifth Melbourne Park title without any sign of physical distress.
“The third set was frustrating because I got a bit distracted when he, like, fell on the ground after a couple of shots,” twice grand slam champion Murray told reporters.
“It appeared that he was cramping, and then I let that distract me a little bit.
“That’s what I’m most disappointed about, not so much the fourth set because I think, especially at the end of it, he was just going for everything, and it was going in. But the third set was more frustrating for me.”
Murray was asked whether there was a deliberate element to Djokovic’s struggles.
“I would hope that that wouldn’t be the case. But, yeah, if it was cramp, how he recovered from it, that’s a tough thing to recover from and play as well as he did at the end,” Murray said.
“So, yeah, I’m frustrated at myself for letting that bother me at the beginning of the third set, because I was playing well, I had good momentum, and then just dropped off for like 10 minutes and it got away from me.”
Djokovic said he did not suffer cramping or any serious injury and described his problems as a “physical crisis” that lasted 15 or 20 minutes due to the taxing nature of the contest.
“I was just weak,” he said. “You know, just the length of the rallies. Even though I went through this moment, I believed that I was going to get that necessary strength.”