Australian Open 2021 - How Novak Djokovic kept focus during a distracting day at his ‘happy place’
On a day which featured a couple of potential distractions for Novak Djokovic, the world number one looked focused on the job in hand when beginning his Australian Open title defence with a straight-sets 6-3 6-1 6-2 victory over Jeremy Chardy. Watch the Australian Open on Eurosport, eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app.
Novak Djokovic speaks after beating France's Jeremy Chardy in their men's singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 8, 2021
Published 08/02/2021 at 15:43 GMT | Updated 08/02/2021 at 17:32 GMT
For Novak Djokovic it was the perfect start against an ideal opponent at the Australian Open, and no distraction was going to prevent him from sleeping easy in Melbourne, his “happy place”, on Monday night.
Jeremy Chardy had not taken a set off Djokovic in their previous 13 meetings, and the Frenchman never looked in danger of troubling the world number one in their 14th showdown.
Though the heavy favourite, such are the lofty standards of Djokovic that he yelled out in disappointment when a potential winner turned into an unforced error at 6-3 6-1 5-1 up.
It spoke volumes about his own levels of expectations, and a game later – having served supremely throughout – he wrapped up a routine win to kick-start his pursuit of Australian Open title No 9 in style.
Highlights | Novak Djokovic - Jeremy Chardy
Djokovic loves Melbourne, and reigns supreme on the Rod Laver Arena.
“It is an ongoing love affair between me and this court,” he said afterwards, before telling Eurosport it is the court upon which he feels most comfortable:
This has been my happy place, my happy court over the course of the 15 years of my professional career. That’s where I feel most comfortable and most confident playing my best.
He added: “Of course you always have nerves and excitement, but regardless of the fact I’ve played so many matches in my career on this court, I still of course get nervous, I still have expectations for myself. We all want to win, that’s why we’re here.
“I started right off the blocks really great. High-quality level tennis, broke his serve first game and once you start with one-love and a break, things are easier mentally to work your way into the match.
‘I played flawless’ – Djokovic ignores noise to make dominant start
“I played a really flawless match. I served very well, it was a quick match. Everything was working very well.”
What was perhaps more impressive than his performance was his ability to put the blinkers on and bat away two potential distractions on day one of the opening slam of 2021.
It seems nothing will divert his attention from winning an 18th slam. Not even difficult on-court questions, or a certain Nick Kyrgios…
Distraction No 1: Quarantine question
Djokovic kept his composure on court when facing a difficult question immediately after his victory over Chardy.
'What do you mean I got frustrated?' - Djokovic's awkward interview moment
Having come under scrutiny for his comments on the quarantine players faced before the tournament, Djokovic was asked: “You got a little frustrated in isolation as you were waiting to prepare for this, are you feeling good, are you feeling fit, do you feel you lost anything?”
Djokovic replied, “What do you mean I got frustrated?” and then quickly said, “Wait, wait, wait,” while he gestured to the crowd, for some had not appreciated the reporter's initial question. Seeking clarification, Djokovic added: “What do you mean?”.
The reporter continued: “It’s not a negative term, just being stuck in quarantine for two weeks, was that a bit frustrating? You felt you might not get the practice you needed but you showed no loss of form.”
Djokovic remained all smiles, though, as the noise from the crowd continued, adding: “I’m just really glad we are free, we are playing tennis. I’m really glad we are back in Australia. It’s a happy place for us. That’s all.”
Cue the cheers from the crowd, and a well-handled response from Djokovic, when perhaps he may have shown greater frustration with the question in the past.
Distraction No 2: Kyrgios
Unbeknownst to the Serbian, Kyrgios had wrapped up his own first-round match just moments earlier, and the Australian continued their sparring when following up on Djokovic’s comments where the world No 1 said he had no respect for him off the court.
Kyrgios called Djokovic a “very strange cat” and said he did not want to be criticised from “someone who’s partying with his shift off during a global pandemic”.
'That's as bad as it gets for me' - Kyrgios hits back at 'very strange cat' Djokovic
Djokovic, whose Adria Tour courted huge controversy last year, stepped away from adding further fuel to the fire, however, simply replying “no” when asked if he would like to respond...
Q. I'm not sure if you're aware that Nick Kyrgios was in press not long before you and he's responded to your comments. Have you caught up on them at all?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No.
Q. Can I read some of what he said to you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You can read it, but I'm not gonna answer to anything.
Q. He said that you're a very strange cat. That was part of what he said. He was bemused you weren't respecting him off the court because he feels he has done a fair bit for charity and people during the pandemic. He ultimately said he's not going to take any slack from someone who was partying with his shirt off during the pandemic. Is there anything you wanted to say in response to that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No.
Once more, it would not be a stretch to suggest Djokovic would typically respond to such a comment, but in avoiding confrontation it showed where his focus lies.
Djokovic wants a ninth title here, and it’ll take something special to deny him.
'Getting even better' - Wilander after 'frightening' Djokovic win