Djokovic back on track

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> It is an older, and more importantly, wiser Novak Djokovic that returns to the scene of his greatest triumph at the upcoming Australian Open.

Updated: January 15, 2010 09:02 IST
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It is an older, and more importantly, wiser Novak Djokovic that returns to the scene of his greatest triumph at the upcoming Australian Open.

It was in Melbourne that the richly gifted Serbian announced himself as the likely challenger to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's dominance by winning his first Grand Slam in 2008, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final.

However, things haven't gone completely to plan for the 22-year-old since his breakthrough success.

That Australian Open title was expected to launch his career to the next level, but he has failed to make another Grand Slam final since.

His ranking slipped to fourth for much of 2009, behind Scotland's Andy Murray, before he finished the year strongly to regain third again in late October.

Speaking late last year, Djokovic admitted he lost his way slightly after his first Grand Slam title.

He only reached the quarters in his Australian title defence last year, infamously retiring due to fatigue when down two sets to one against Andy Roddick.

He said the pressure of expectations affected his tennis for an extended period.

"It started with the Australian Open and defending my title there," he said, adding that his change from Wilson racquets to Head just before the year's first Grand Slam did not help."

"I've expected too much of myself and it wasn't good with the racquet change and distractions off the court."

"It all kind of reflected on the court."

However, Djokovic's form started to turn at the ATP Masters event in Cincinatti in August, when he beat Nadal in the semis and lost to Federer in the final.

He had previously only made the third round at the French Open and quarter-finals at Wimbledon, but after Cincinatti he made the semis at the US Open and won in Beijing, Basel and Paris.

It means he made four finals in his last seven tournaments and won 29 of his last 33 matches for the year.

Djokovic finished 2009 with five titles and a career-high 10 finals, marking him as one of the players to watch in 2010.

He is reaping the rewards of working with American Todd Martin, the former serve-volleyer's cool temperament offering nice balance for the passionate Serb.

"He obviously brings his big knowledge and experience, and great calmness," said Djokovic.

"He's a very positive person and that's what I like."

"I'm a temperament player and emotionally I show my emotions, even in practice when I get frustrated I throw my racquet."

"Then I look at him and I'm kind of scared of his reaction, what he's going to say. And he always goes: 'But the shot you made before the mistake was good. so keep it going."

Djokovic, who chose to round out his preparation for the Australian Open by playing in the Kooyong Classic, also believes Martin has helped greatly with his volleying and slice, giving him much more variety.

"Some day I hope it will work into my routine that I get in there naturally, without any forcing," he said.

Djokovic has vowed there will be no repeat of his inglorious exit here last year, giving himself 10 days in Melbourne to acclimatise before the action begins.

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  • Tennis
  • Novak Djokovic

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