'Novak Djokovic has got to get to 22 before the French Open', says analyst
by SIMONE BRUGNOLI | VIEW 1172
After two years, Novak Djokovic returned to play in Australia and he did it with a victory. The Serbian champion has endured a troubled 2022 and is now ready to start anew. He won his first match without fear, beating Frenchman Lestienne by a resounding 6-3, 6-2 to claim his first victory of the year.
At the end of the match, the winner of twenty-one Grand Slam titles spoke at a press conference and appeared quite smiling. The athlete joked about what happened last year, saying: "At first I joked with my team and asked if I had a chance to get into Australia this time, and I can say yes this time.
In the end, without kidding, I can say that it was a normal reception, like every year I arrive in Australia, passport control went well and everything was great. There was nothing strange about it. I really wanted to be here and I am happy with the reception I have received, so far it has been positive.
I don't hold grudges, I'm here to play tennis, play sports and spread good. I do not want or should focus on any negative aspect. The Serbian fans have been very close to me here in Australia." The Balkan champion continued: "What awaits me in Melbourne? I honestly don't know, for now we'll see.
Now I'm focusing on Adelaide, I want to do well in this tournament, then we already know that Melbourne, the Grand Slam tournaments, are another stuff. I will be there a week before my first match, let's say that as I usually do, I want to train and evaluate my condition and my speed on the court.
I hope the public receive me well, but I don't have any expectations."
Nole is returning to Melbourne Park
Mats Wilander reckons Novak Djokovic can ill-afford to stay behind all-time Grand Slam title leader Rafael Nadal.
"The revenge he most probably wants will be winning in Melbourne. The race is back on. If he wins it. It's 22-22 (Grand Slams tally with Nadal). He has got to get to 22 before the French Open comes in May because Rafa might grab another one.
You cannot lose in Melbourne and be 21, and Rafa gets to 23," Wilander said. "I think that in today's men's professional tennis, a lot of them have grown up on clay, but on hard courts, they are all experts," said Wilander.
"I think that if you win 10 Australian Opens on hard courts, that means you have to beat maybe the best field in tennis because everybody knows how to play on hard courts. So I think that achievement would be unbelievable. Nine is already unbelievable."