'Djoker' gets serious and finds new focus on surface that suits

Serb has added steel and consistency to his game that will test Murray to the limit in tomorrow's final

Americans call him "the Djoker". While some of his rivals have not always appreciated Novak Djokovic's brilliant impersonations of his fellow players – it is said that Roger Federer does not see the funny side – the US Open crowd love the 23-year-old Serb.

His outgoing personality appeals to the New York public and at most socials he is the life and soul of the party.

For a while there seemed to be a danger that the world No 3 would be celebrated more for his party pieces than for his tennis. Although he reached his first Grand Slam final at the 2007 US Open and won his first major title four months later here, he appeared to have reached a plateau. He still won his fair share of lesser tournaments, but when it came to the Grand Slam events he kept falling short.

That changed at last year's US Open, where Djokovic won a titanic battle against Roger Federer before losing to Rafael Nadal in the final. He maintained that form through to the end of the year, leading his beloved Serbia to a historic victory in the Davis Cup. Past problems with his breathing and stamina appear to have been largely overcome.

How does the Djokovic of 2011 think he compares with the 2008 vintage? "I'm three years older and I'm a more experienced player on the court and physically stronger," he said. "I was a 20-year-old kid hitting as hard as he could with closed eyes and everything was going in back then. It was great.

"Then, over the years, I faced some situations that I never faced before, like the pressure of defending a Grand Slam title. You grow up. You get this knowledge and the necessary experience.

"I had my ups and downs throughout these two or three years, but right now I feel like I'm much stronger and more consistent and I know that I'm more stable, mentally and physically."

Djokovic has won four of his 18 titles on clay, but his other successes have all been on hard courts, which suit his style as a hard-hitting baseliner. While clay is a better surface for players who hit the ball with more topspin, Djokovic's flatter strokes, hit lower over the net, are more effective on courts where the ball accelerates quickly off the surface.

"I like this surface," Djokovic said of the courts here at Melbourne Park. "The conditions are very suitable to my game. It's a bit slower and gives me enough time to have a couple of options in what I want to do with the ball. I can spin it out, flatten it out. I need a little bit more time for my game, and the slower surfaces are more suited to my style. This is a great court. I like playing on it."

Djokovic comes from a family of skiers, but from an early age his talent for tennis was clear. He left his Belgrade home at the age of 12 to train at Niki Pilic's academy in Munich. He now lives in Monte Carlo, but remains a fiercely patriotic Serb.

Tale of the tape: Djokovic / Murray


Djokovic: Belgrade, Serbia, 22 May 1987

Murray: Dunblane, Scotland, 15 May 1987


Djokovic: Monte Carlo

Murray: Surrey


Djokovic: 6ft 2in

Murray: 6ft 3in


Djokovic: 12st 8lb

Murray: 13st 3lb


Djokovic: Marian Vajda

Murray: Alex Corretja

World Ranking

Djokovic: 3

Murray: 5

Turned Professional

Djokovic: 2003

Murray: 2005

Career Earnings

Djokovic: $20,262,956 (£12.8m)

Murray: $13,967,298 (£8.8m)

Grand Slam Best

Djokovic: Won Australian Open 2008

Murray: Runner-up US Open 2008, Australian Open 2010


Djokovic: 18

Murray: 16


Djokovic leads 4-3

2006 Madrid (hard) Djokovic won 1-6, 7-5, 6-3

2007 Indian Wells (hard) Djokovic won 6-2, 6-3

2007 Miami (hard) Djokovic won 6-1, 6-0

2008 Monte Carlo (clay) Djokovic won 6-0, 6-4

2008 Toronto (hard) Murray won 6-3, 7-6

2008 Cincinnati (hard) Murray won 7-6, 7-6

2009 Miami (hard) Murray won 6-2, 7-5

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home