Djokovic: ‘The Love Affair Keeps Going’

Eight-time champion Novak Djokovic says knowing that he has never lost an Australian Open final gives him more confidence ahead of Sunday’s test against Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The World No. 1, who was speaking after a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 semi-final victory over Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev on Thursday, said, “Of course, it contributes to [having] more confidence. Coming into the final, knowing that I [have] never lost in the final or semi-finals [at the Australian Open] just makes me feel more comfortable on the court.

“But each year is different, although it does have a mental effect on me [and] maybe on my opponents. It does definitely have a positive effect on me. It’s not a decisive factor in the way the match is going to go… Regardless of my great record, I think both Tsitsipas and Medvedev will want to get their first Grand Slam title.”

Djokovic, who injured his abdominal muscles in a third-round victory over Taylor Fritz last week, went on to discuss his route to a 28th major championship final (17-10 record) and how he played pain-free against Karatsev on Rod Laver Arena.

“I’ve never experienced the kind of a injury that I experienced in third round here, and had to deal with in the past five days,” said Djokovic. “I also had tough match-ups. I had big hitters, Fritz, [Milos] Raonic, [Frances] Tiafoe, [Alexander] Zverev. I just had to deliver my best [level].

“I see every experience that I have at the Grand Slams as something that I can actually draw a lot of lessons from, learn from and grow. [I] definitely had to stretch myself to the limit in the past five days in every sense, but I’m really pleased that in terms of [the] injury, it’s going in the right direction.

“I am surprised [by] the way I felt tonight. I think it surpassed, in a way, my greatest wishes and the way I wanted to feel… I didn’t think that I’d play without pain tonight. And I did play without pain.

“Each day [the injury] is progressing and getting better, and so today is [the] best [I’ve] felt. Hopefully, [the injury] will stay the same until the final.”

The Serbian, who has compiled an 81-8 match record at Melbourne Park, admitted he has always aimed to begin each season in good form.

“I think, as any other tennis player at the beginning of the season, I really want to get off the blocks and start the season in the best possible way. So I’m fresh, I’m motivated, I’m inspired to play my best tennis. Then, of course, the surface, the conditions, especially night matches are very suitable to my style of play.

“I just somehow always manage to find the best game when it matters the most. The more I win, the better I feel coming back each year…. The love affair keeps [on] going.”

After Rafael Nadal’s loss to Tsitsipas in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Wednesday, Djokovic is guaranteed to remain as World No. 1 through at least 8 March, when he will overtake Roger Federer to set a new record of 311 total weeks at No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

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