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
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
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.

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power