James Lawton: Ice baths and icy aggression point way to Australian Open triumph for Novak Djokovic

 

Novak Djokovic provided an engaging picture of himself after feeding the powerful and talented Tomas Berdych into the tennis equivalent of a shredding machine.

It was of him sitting in an ice bath chatting amiably with the old favourite of the Australian Open crowd, Lleyton Hewitt, but if this was just a snapshot of his remarkable recovery from the five-hour, five-set win over the defiant Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka it came, as you might have expected, with another philosophical statement of the most formidable intent.

We talk often and casually enough about the great competitors moving into "the zone". Here is one who is suggesting he might have filled it with an armoured division.

There may never have been another Grand Slam champion, not even the raging John McEnroe or the impassioned Andre Agassi, to have conveyed quite so explicitly the intensity of his passion to win and all of it was reporting for duty in the demolition of the world's sixth-ranked player from the Czech Republic.

This was the collision of a gifted player and someone who continues to drive himself on to another plateau.

With the great Roger Federer fanning the last flames of a unique talent and Rafa Nadal battling against career-threatening infirmities, the 25-year-old Serbian is moving towards his sixth Grand Slam title in something resembling a controlled competitive rage.

His work this week has sent out a whole series of warnings and not the least among them, signalled to Andy Murray that his new status as US Open champion and Olympic gold medallist may well be heading for its most demanding examination. No doubt it was something tugging at the corners of the Scotsman's psyche when he went out in the early hours of this morning hoping to stifle as routinely as possible the ambitions of the Frenchman Jérémy Chardy. This, surely, is the effect of Djokovic on the march. His aggression spills into every corner. He doesn't walk into an arena, he invades it.

Djokovic explained that the evisceration of Berdych – in precisely half the time it took to dispatch the obdurate Wawrinka – could only have happened after perfect handling of the fatigue that came with his earlier labours. "People who don't know tennis," he said, "who have never been in these kind of situations would not truly understand what a player has to go through, not just when you prepare for a Grand Slam but also during a Grand Slam.

"After five hours of a match you really need to put a lot of time into recovery, different kinds of recovery. I understand that many have different views and opinions and I respect that. But I'm doing everything that is legal, that is correct, that I naturally can, possibly can in my power – and it is going well."

Translation: I am in charge of my body and my ambition and good luck to anyone who dreams of stopping me.

There is huge terrain to conquer if Djokovic is to get anywhere near the empire created by Federer with his record mark of 17 Grand Slams. Even if Melbourne falls to the Serb for a fourth straight time, he will still be 11 titles short of the Federer mark or, put another way, the career-long accumulations of such epic achievers as Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg.

Nadal is locked on 11, Murray in the foothills of one title and maybe it is that Federer's time, finally, has passed. So where does this leave Djokovic as he moves between his bed and ice baths and the arena he has come to dominate so profoundly?

It is in an astonishing place that has become one of the most compelling in all of sport, somewhere filled with an ambition which has become ferociously overt and spectacular. Against Berdych there was the brief torment of the lost second set after a 28-minute rampage through the first. The rest was filled with play that stretched the bounds of tennis possibility.

The Czech walked off court with the downcast demeanour of a man that had been confronted again by the misfortune of being born at the wrong time. This was his 12th defeat in 13 meetings. It wasn't so much futility as persecution.

Djokovic's semi-final opponent, David Ferrer, ranked No 5 and briefly glowing from his "miraculous" five-set victory over Spanish compatriot Nicolas Almagro, rolled his eyes when asked about his prospects. Of course Djokovic was a big favourite but he had a chance – the kind, he seemed to be saying, when a firing squad appears at the other side of the net.

No doubt Murray awoke in a rather more sanguine frame of mind.

He, too, has been to the mountain top. However, it has been rather less frequently than the man from Serbia who was born a week later but with an impatience that the highest level of sport has rarely seen.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
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?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
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
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

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