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Decoding why Novak Djokovic is such a massive force at the Australian Open | Tennis News

The 2024 Australian Open is kicking off on Monday and no prizes for guessing it’s Novak Djokovic who is expected to win the first grand slam of the year. There is no partiality involved here. Numbers back that. The Serb has played 89 matches in the Australian Open to date and has lost only eight times. He has won the tournament a record 10 times. While he is a player for all surfaces, his dominance in the Australian Open is something else. The question arises: why the 36-year-old is such a force at the Australian Open?

Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open 10 times(Getty)
Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open 10 times(Getty)

Believe it or not, Djoker’s dominance at the Australian Open coincides with the change of surface at the venue – from a cushioned hard surface called Rebound Ace (green) to the cooler Plexicushion (blue).

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In 2005, Djokovic, then 18-year-old, played his first Australian Open and was dismissed by Marat Safin in the first round itself. Another first-round exit came to pass for him next year when Paul Goldstein showed him the door. In 2007, he fared much better and reached the pre-quarterfinals where eventual champion Roger Federer ended his campaign.

After the 2007 Australian Open, the surface was changed. The previous surface had issues of consistency of bounce and pace. Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Maria Sharapova were consulted before the new surface was laid. Djokovic won his first Australian Open the very next year. It also happened to be his first grand slam triumph. It can’t just be a coincidence that Djokovic wins his first Australian Open the same year the new surface is used. It suited him down to the ground.

Between 2009 and 2023, there have been just five years when Djokovic failed to win the tournament: 2009, 2010, 2014, 2017 and 2018 (he has not lost here since). It may be noted that in 2022, he wasn’t allowed to play in the tournament because of his Covid-19 vaccine status.

Also Read: Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray on cards; Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev learn their fate

Like Rafael Nadal comes into his own at Roland Garros, Djokovic has the upper hand over everyone else at Melbourne Park. The weather in Melbourne also appears to suit him. The Australian Open is the hottest grand slam with the temperatures often soaring to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In the last few years, a lot of players have found it hard to deal with that kind of heat, but as far as Djokovic is concerned, he appears to flourish in such weather.

After the retirement of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s fewer appearances in recent years due to injuries, Djokovic has seen a rapid growth in his popularity. With no real competitor to challenge him at present, he is a crowd favourite hands down. But this change applies to other tournaments. At the Australian Open, he has always had support, right from the day he won his first grand slam here in 2008. As per former British number one Laura Robson, the crowds at Melbourne Park deserve some credit for Djokovic’s success over the years. “It’s hard to see anyone beating him in Melbourne. There is something here that works for his game and the fans are just crazy Novak Djokovic supporters here. You don’t really see that anywhere else in the world. I just feel he loves playing here,” she told tennis365 recently.

Djoker once again heads into the event as a favourite. 2023 Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner are the only ones who pose some kind of challenge to Djokovic. Both have beaten the Serb in recent months. Earlier this month during a United Cup encounter against Aussie Alex de Minaur which he lost in straight sets, Djokovic was seen receiving treatment to his right wrist. It has caused some stress among his fans. It’s not clear how serious the injury is. We will know that over the course of next few days. For now, he is an overwhelming favourite. He should also be heavily motivated since he is just one grand slam triumph away from becoming the person with most grand slams across men’s and women’s tennis. He is presently tied at 24 with Margaret Court.

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