Novak Djokovic has said he meant no disrespect, but stands by his comments that he’s not ready to roll over for the next generation of tennis stars after beating Daniil Medvedev to win a ninth Australian Open.
A comprehensive, 7-5 6-2 6-2, victory over the Russian fourth seed secured an 18th Grand Slam title for the Serb, which leaves him two behind joint men’s record holders Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The world number one told Eurosport that the win continues his “love affair” with the Rod Laver Arena, and defended his comments ahead of the final that he will “not hand it over” to the sport’s up and coming stars.
“That was a risky statement at the time”, said Djokovic.
I think I deserved to say something confident about myself and my game and my record in finals.
“Nevertheless, I didn’t mean any disrespect to Daniil, or anybody that is part of the next generation. Obviously, they’re going to slowly but surely take over the top of the men’s game.
'It's nine and 18' - Watch 'incredible' Djokovic win Australian Open title again
"It’s not happening yet, people have been talking about it like it’s already happened but the top spots are still held by Rafa, myself. Daniil is at the forefront of the Next Generation.
"Rafa, Roger, myself are still trying to give them a hard time and I think the experience of playing in many major finals maybe helped me tonight to start off the match better and I came out of the blocks very solid, with a clear game plan."
All players had to quarantine ahead of the tournament, due to Australia’s strict coronavirus rules, but Djokovic is impressed that he dealt with the added complexity of battling through an abdominal injury which threatened to end his campaign.
It has been emotionally one of the toughest tournaments I’ve ever had in my life, without a doubt.
“I had to really lock myself in the shell, really avoid any distractions and focus all my action into recovery, into mental preparation.
Highlights: Djokovic routs Medvedev to seal ninth title in Melbourne
“I kind of pleasantly surprised myself with the ability to recover and ability to stay tough when it mattered most. I’ll take a lot of positives from this tournament, but also I’ll also take a break because I need one!”
- 'Invincible' Djokovic downs Medvedev for ninth Aus Open title
- 'I'm not going to hand it over to them' - Djokovic aims fire at Next Gen
Despite his initial criticism of quarantine conditions and his belief that players will not want to continue doing it to play, during his on-court presentation, Djokovic praised organisers for making sure the competition went ahead during a global pandemic, the majority of which was played in front of fans.
Look, there are a lot of mixed feelings about what has happened in the last month or so with tennis players coming to Australia, but I think when we draw a line in the end, it was a successful tournament for organisers - they did make a great effort.
'Wait a few more years!' - Djokovic jokes to Medvedev after triumph
“It wasn’t easy, it was very challenging on many different levels, but you know, I think they should be proud of themselves for what they have put together and allowed us to come to Australia and be standing here - thank you very much for making this possible.”
For Medvedev, it was a second major final defeat following his loss to Rafael Nadal in the 2019 US Open final. He was not able to extend his 20 match winning run, which included 12 victories over top 10 opponents.
Despite the convincing result, the Russian was still able to find his sense of humour: “It’s never easy to speak after you’ve just lost in the final of a Grand Slam, but I’m going to try my best, better than I did on court hopefully.
'I wanted to entertain you, but today not the day' - Medvedev
I really wanted to make this match longer, and more entertaining for you, but today was not the day.
Medvedev also paid tribute to Djokovic, who he says has never let success go to his head: “I practiced with Novak when I was like 500 or 600 in the world in Monaco, he was already number one, just won Wimbledon and I thought OK, he’s not going to speak to me.
“I was shy, I didn’t speak, so he was asking me questions, talking to me like a friend, I was really surprised, he’s never changed whether I was 600 in the world or four in the world - you’re a great sport."
- - -
A head-turning offer for head-turning tennis. One-month premium subscription for just 99p on the Eurosport app and eurosport.co.uk