Fire still burning, Djokovic and GOAT debate move on to Paris
MELBOURNE, Jan 30 (Reuters) – A triumphant Novak Djokovic paraded the Australian Open trophy in the gardens of Melbourne’s Government House on Monday. His 10th title added another notch to the plus column for those who claim he’s the greatest of all time (GOAT).
That debate may never be settled, but if it is to be decided solely in terms of the championship win, it now moves on to the French Open in spring Europe, where the Serb and Rafael Nadal have shared 22 titles.
While the blue courts of Melbourne Park are undoubtedly Djokovic’s domain, the red clay courts of Roland Garros are the domain of Spaniard Nadal, the other open era GOAT contender, along with 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
Federer is now retired and sent his congratulations to Djokovic on Instagram – “Incredible performance, again!” – but Nadal was back in Spain and being treated for the latest in a string of career-decimating injuries.
The 36-year-old is confident he will recover from the hip flexor problem he picked up at the Australian Open in time to drag his ailing physique to Paris in May to bid for a 15th French Open title .
And despite a hamstring problem that hampered him during the first Grand Slam of the year, Djokovic left little doubt that he would be looking to win the number 23 Major there too.
“I think there’s still a lot of that fire inside me that burns with passion for the sport and competition, and I think that’s what allows me to still push myself to my limits,” said him on Monday.
“Repeating the same routines in the training sessions day after day after so many years is sometimes not that interesting.
“But I know there is always a bigger goal and a guiding star so to speak, and this trophy is one of those guiding stars, I always strive to achieve it.”
While the resilience shown by Djokovic and Nadal means men’s tennis can continue to enjoy the tail end of its most glittering golden eras, women’s tennis is attempting its debut season to fill the void left by Serena Williams.
The American, when fit, dominated women’s football for nearly two decades while claiming 23 Grand Slam singles titles – a tally second only to Australia’s Margaret Court (24), mostly in the amateur era.
Even if Djokovic’s resistance to COVID-19 vaccines keeps him away from the US Open for the second year in a row, Sunday’s title puts him firmly close to those stats.
“I really don’t want to stop here,” he said after the final.
“I have no intention of stopping here. I feel great in my tennis. I know that if I feel good physically and mentally, I have a chance to win any slam against anyone.
“I like my chances to go forward.”
Written by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, edited by Peter Rutherford
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