Novak Djokovic returns to action for the first time since his shock defeat at the Australian Open at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this week. Djokovic has won the title four times in Dubai.
Djokovic lost 6-2, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-9 in the quarter-finals to Stanislas Wawrinka, who went on to win the tournament, defeating Rafael Nadal in the final. It was the three-time champion’s earliest defeat in Melbourne since 2010, when he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals.
‘It was a tough loss for me,’ said Djokovic. ‘But I wasn’t disappointed because I knew I gave it my all and fought until the last point. I lost an incredibly close match to a better player who after that went on to win the tournament.’
The pressure was heightened by the fact that it was the first tournament with legendary Grand Slam champion Boris Becker supplementing Djokovic’s coaching team alongside long-time mentor Marian Vajda. But Djokovic denied that the shake-up in his team had contributed to his defeat.
‘It’s sport, you win and lose, it’s normal. It’s not because Boris was there instead of Marian as many people were saying.’
Djokovic went on to discuss his collaboration with Becker further. ‘We are not significantly changing anything in my game,’ he said. ‘The biggest part I hope he’ll contribute towards is the mental side of my game.
‘I’ve felt I’ve dropped two or three titles that I should have won over the last few years. That mental edge has been lacking and hopefully he can contribute.
‘We have different games. He was a serve-and-volley player, strong and muscular, whereas on the contrary I stay more on the baseline. I still need to learn to use the opportunities that my groundstrokes present to come to the net more.’
Djokovic is keen to get back to action after a refreshing break after the Australian Open. He plays his first match against Denis Istomin, whom he also beat in Melbourne. ‘In the last three weeks after the Australian Open I’ve done a lot of things and been to places that I haven’t visited since childhood,’ he said. ‘I reconnected with a period of growing up and spent time with family. It’s something that has given me a lot of food for my soul and a lot of life energy that I can hopefully transfer on to the court.
‘I miss competition and I miss playing matches and I can’t wait to get back out on court. It’s still only the beginning of the season and I’m still running on the confidence I have from the end of last year.’