'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

Born

Djokovic: Belgrade, Serbia, 22 May 1987

Murray: Dunblane, Scotland, 15 May 1987

Resides

Djokovic: Monte Carlo

Murray: Surrey

Height

Djokovic: 6ft 2in

Murray: 6ft 3in

Weight

Djokovic: 12st 8lb

Murray: 13st 3lb

Coach

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

Titles

Djokovic: 18

Murray: 16

Head-to-head

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

Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?