MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic is back from six months off the tour with a remodeled service motion partly inspired by Andre Agassi and a growing confidence he can get his sore right elbow through the Australian Open.
No man has more Australian Open titles than Djokovic, who has six in all and — until last year’s shocking second-round exit — had won five of the six contested from 2011 to 2016.
Djokovic is seeded 14th and will be coming off just a couple of exhibition matches to prepare for his first-round encounter against Donald Young.
The 12-time major winner is in the same quarter as No. 4 Alexander Zverev, No. 5 Dominic Thiem and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka, who confirmed Saturday he’d return at Melbourne Park from his own six-month layoff following surgery on his left knee.
They’re all in the same half of the draw as defending champion Roger Federer, who last year returned from an extended injury time out to beat Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final. Federer went on to win Wimbledon for his 19th major and finished the year ranked No. 2 behind Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Open titles.
That is giving Djokovic some hope.
“I mean, Roger and Rafa’s year last year has shown age is just a number, especially in Roger’s case,” Djokovic said Saturday in his pre-tournament news conference. “I mean, he’s a great example of someone that manages to take care of himself, knows how to prepare well and peak at the right time.
“He won a couple Grand Slams. Who would predict that after his six months of absence, so … everything is possible really.”
Djokovic had contested 51 consecutive Grand Slams until he missed last year’s U.S. Open during his rehabilitation.
Off the court, the 30-year-old Serbian said he enjoyed a closer-to-normal family life off the court, including being there when his wife, Jelena, gave birth to their second child — a daughter Tara in September.
On the court, he used the time to work closely with coaches Agassi and Radek Stepanek to refine his service motion to improve the technique and “release the load from the elbow, obviously something that I have to do …read more