The first tennis Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, kicks off on Monday, Jan. 16. The defending champion on the men's side, Novak Djokovic, is virtually a lock to win it again.
But not everyone agrees with that assessment. Detractors are looking for the first sign to take the world's No. 1 player down.
Last year, Djokovic reeled in 43 straight victories. He had a win/loss record of 72-6; established the single-season money record with $12.6 million; won three Grand Slams; and had a record-breaking five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments.
Still, after one of the best seasons that tennis has ever seen, it feels like Djokovic has some more to prove. He is a one-year wonder.
It happens whenever an established and respected institution is substituted for a new one. It's about resistance to change, and it's hard to change minds.
Since July 4th last year, Djokovic has been the top player in the world. Right now everyone is looking up to him. It doesn't look like that will change in the near future.
His 6-4 record after winning the US Open left many wondering if he will be able to replicate his success this year. It gives fuel to the detractors that he will come back to earth this year.
He even gave more fuel to that after he admitted to being mentally drained after the US Open.
That is all fine, they have no chance. He is still on pace to get even better and it starts with the Australian Open. Why?
Last year Djokovic learned what mental toughness is. He had worked on it the previous year and it showed in the successful year he had, the way he was able to win the tough matches, overcome adversity and push through when he needed to.
One thing he has going for him is that he has grown accustomed to facing—and beating—Federer and Nadal in the tournaments. He learned to beat the best, and be the best.
When the draws were revealed on Friday, he learned that Federer and Nadal are on the opposite sides of the draw. That means that he will face only one of them—if they get to the finals.
Last year, he went 6-0 against Nadal on three different surfaces. He went 5-1 against Federer, and his only loss was on clay. His record was 2-0 against Tsonga and he did not play against Roddick—although Djokovic beat him easily the last time they met in 2010.
But his side of the draw is loaded with talented people who can bring it to him. Tsonga and Roddick are there for starters.
Also up-and-coming big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, who has become a dark horse to watch.
His possible semifinal clash would be against fourth seed Andy Murray, whom he defeated handily, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3, in last year's final. When the going gets tough, Murray just doesn't show up against him.
But Djokovic knows what is at stake. He knows he is not the hunter anymore, he is the hunted, and is not about to overlook anybody.
"It's a Grand Slam, everyone has motivation. We can't underestimate anymore"
That is a quote from Djokovic when asked about lowering his guard.
Just look at his performance at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. He is ready to successfully defend his title.
It's Djoker time at the Australian Open. It's not meant to be easy, but he will get the job done.
Djokovic has the mental toughness, the physical ability, the fitness, the drive and the desire to go for it all over again. Oh, and he has arguably the best backhand in tennis to go along with it.
Need anything else?
His quest starts with his opening match opponent, the 108th-ranked player in the world, Italy's Paolo Lorenzi.
He is 2-0 against him. The last time they met was at the 2010 AEGON Championships, where Djokovic won 6-3, 6-3.
And his quest will end with his fifth Grand Slam championship. Jump in the bandwagon and enjoy the ride, it will be fun.
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