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Djokovic Honoured To Be Back In Melbourne, Reflects On 2008 Triumph

Novak Djokovic is tied with Roger Federer and Roy Emerson for the most Australian Open titles in the tournament’s history, with six. So it’s no surprise that the year’s first major holds a special place in the Serbian’s heart.
“I’ve had lots of success in Australia in the past,” said Djokovic. “I think it’s also due to that support that I get from the Serbian community, but also people internationally that come to support all the tennis players during the next couple of weeks… They call it the ‘Happy Slam’ for a reason.”
Top-seeded Djokovic, who opens his campaign against American Mitchell Krueger, is pursuing his seventh title at Melbourne Park, which would break the record he currently shares with Federer and Emerson. The World No. 1, who reached the Qatar ExxonMobil Open semi-finals in the first week of the season (l. to Bautista Agut), carries plenty of momentum into the event as he tries to claim his third consecutive major title. The environment makes it even more of a comfort zone for Djokovic.
“There’s a lot of good vibes [and a] good buzz around the city. The people of Australia love sport and nurture sporting values. They love their tennis,” Djokovic said. “During these four weeks, you can see a lot of tennis on the TV. Everybody follows it. So as a tennis player, obviously it’s a great honour and pleasure to be here.”
Djokovic debuted at the Australian Open against Marat Safin in 2005, and he has compiled a 61-8 record at the first Grand Slam of the season. Eleven years ago, Djokovic, at just 20 years old, beat Lleyton Hewitt, David Ferrer and Federer in straight sets before rallying from a set down to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the championship match, lifting his first major trophy.
“The Australian Open has been, historically, my most successful Grand Slam,” said Djokovic. “Back in 2008, it was my first [Grand Slam] trophy that I won… That obviously served as a great springboard for my career. It opened a lot of doors for me. It allowed me to believe in myself that I can actually win the biggest tournaments in the world and challenge the best players in the world.”

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En route Djokovic’s six Australian Open titles, the Serbian has had to overcome the challenge of Andy Murray on five occasions. The World No. 1 has met Murray in four finals and one semi-final on Rod Laver Arena, in a remarkable chapter of their 36-match FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry.
Djokovic shared his thoughts on Murray’s recent announcement that he will retire from the sport, due to struggles with right hip pain, during the 2019 ATP Tour season. A winner of 45 tour-level singles titles and a five-time finalist in Melbourne, Murray is hoping to end his career in front of home fans at Wimbledon in July.
“Obviously to see him struggle so much and go through so much pain, it’s very sad and it hurts me as his long-time friend, colleague and rival,” said Djokovic. “I’ve nurtured a very good relationship with him on and off the court. I’m proud to have that kind of relationship that will go on hopefully for many more years, regardless of whether we get to play against each other or not, whether he continues playing, whatever happens.
“I will carry beautiful memories from the court and off the court, as well, with him included… So it’s sad for me, but for all [of the] sport, because Andy is a very respected and likable guy around the locker room. He’s a great champion. He’s a legend of this sport, without a doubt.”
Source: ATP World Tour

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