Melbourne: Novak Djokovic feels in the prime of his career with more Grand Slams beckoning after winning a gripping Australian Open final in which he overcame “a physical crisis”.
The Serb ironman showed why he remains the world number one with an energy-sapping 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-0 win over sixth seed Andy Murray on Sunday evening.
He has now won all five of his Melbourne Park finals and said it was perhaps the most satisfying of his eight Grand Slam titles.
“I think it has deeper meaning, more intrinsic value now to my life because I’m a father and a husband,” he said. “It’s the first Grand Slam title I won as a father and a husband and I just feel very, very proud of it.”
Djokovic added that as his life was changing off court, he was learning to appreciate the big wins more than ever.
“I try to stay on the right path and committed to this sport in every possible way… and try to use this prime time of my career really where I’m playing and feeling the best at 27,” he said.
“This is why I play the sport, to win big titles and to put myself in a position to play also for the people around me.
“As my life progresses, there are circumstances, situations, events that define these beautiful moments.
“Getting married and becoming a father in the last six months was definitely something that gave me a new energy, something that I never felt before.
“And right now everything has been going in such a positive direction in my life. So I try to live these moments with all my heart.”
Only Australian Roy Emerson, who presented Djokovic with the trophy, has won more Australian Opens with six in the 1960s.
Djokovic has now beaten Murray in three of his four Australian final appearances following earlier wins in 2011 and 2013, but the Serb admitted it was a huge struggle to down the Scot.
He hurt the thumb on his racquet hand when he fell in the first set then appeared to cramp in the second set and again in the third.
But after trailing by a break and looking wobbly on his feet and gasping for breathe early in the pivotal third set, he roared back to win 12 of the last 13 games to claim the title.
“It was very physical, very exhausting. We both of course went through some tough moments physically,” he said.
“You could see that I had a crisis end of the second, beginning of the third.
“I just felt very exhausted and I needed some time to regroup and recharge and get back on track. That’s what I’ve done.”
There were suggestions by the media that it was theatrics to throw Murray off his game, but the Serb denied this.
“I went through a physical crisis in the matter of 20 minutes. And, honestly, I didn’t feel that too many times in my career,” he said.
“Even though I went through this moment, I believed that I’m going to get that necessary strength. I’m going to have to earn it, and that’s what I did.”
He now trails only Roger Federer (17), Rafael Nadal (14), Pete Sampras (14), Emerson (12), Rod Laver (11), Bjorn Borg (11) and Bill Tilden (10) on the all-time Grand Slam leaderboard. (AFP)