'Switched-on' Djokovic sets his sights on becoming world No 1

Serbian patriot celebrates triumph at Australian Open with folk songs and a mission statement

He did not look like the outstanding athlete who had claimed his second Grand Slam title less than 15 hours earlier, but the fact that he was sitting alongside the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup confirmed that it was indeed Novak Djokovic talking at the Melbourne Cricket Ground here yesterday.

"Under the circumstances I handled myself quite well," a bleary-eyed Djokovic said, having partied into the small hours after his straight-sets victory over Andy Murray in the Australian Open final. "I couldn't really sleep because I was still under the great impression of winning a title. It was hard because of the excitement."

The celebrations, at which two musicians helped the party to belt out Serbian folk songs, were typical of the world No 3. Djokovic is a great patriot, his proudest moment having come at the end of last year when he led his country to their first Davis Cup victory. "It has been a tough period for our people," Djokovic had said on Sunday night at the presentation ceremony. "We are trying every single day to present our country in the best possible way, so this is for my country, Serbia."

Djokovic grew up in Belgrade during the Balkan Wars, though the conditions in his homeland were such that at 12 he had to go to Munich to train at the Niki Pilic Academy. Serbia is still recovering from the damage the wars did to its economy and infrastructure. "We've been growing up through two wars," Djokovic said yesterday. "When you turn around and analyse what you have been through, you appreciate some things more in your life and you know what your values are.

"Of course everybody loves their country. I don't love my country more than you love yours, but in my case it's a more special feeling because we've been through something different. So to be able to help those people who I know how much they've suffered – and they still suffer because of some problems – it's our obligation in some way to give support as best we can."

Djokovic has been through his own troubles in the three years since his first Grand Slam victory. Having failed initially to build on that triumph, he brought in Todd Martin as a coaching consultant in 2009, only to part company with him the following year when he realised the American's dual role with his long-time coach, Marian Vajda, was not working. Reaching last season's US Open final before losing to Rafael Nadal, the world No 1, was the first sign that Djokovic was getting back on track and he has not looked back since.

"Something switched in my head," Djokovic said. "I am very emotional on and off the court. I show my emotions. This is the way I am. Everybody's different. Things off the court were not working for me. It reflected on my game, on my professional tennis career. But then I settled some things in my head." He added: "In the last two months I've probably played the best tennis of my life and I cannot ask for a better start to the season."

Djokovic is within touching distance of Roger Federer, the No 2 in the world rankings list as the top three players in the game threaten to pull away from the rest.

"My goal is to be No 1 of the world and I'm doing everything in order to achieve that," Djokovic said. "If people want to call me a part of the big three, then that's great. I have big respect for Federer and Nadal. They are great examples of champions on and off the court in every sense. If I want to become the best player in the world, I will have to win more Grand Slams."

Murray would have climbed one place above Robin Soderling back to No 4 if he had won the title here. The only consolation is that he has comparatively few ranking points to defend before Wimbledon following his poor spring campaign last year.

The 23-year-old Scot said he was not concerned about the criticism he would face after his disappointing performance in the final. "Everyone can say whatever they think but I will go away and enjoy myself while they are worrying about that," he said.

"It doesn't faze me what everybody else thinks. I gave the best I could every time. I would like to have played better but I didn't. It's not an easy thing to get to a Grand Slam final. It's very, very difficult to win one as well. I know that." Did he feel desperate to put things right? "I'm not desperate to put it right. I don't think that's the right way to go about it. I want to enjoy myself away from the court, I want to enjoy myself when I am at the tournaments, I want to enjoy all the training. It's about balancing the two to make it as good and as fun as possible. The last year has been great and, hopefully, I will move on from here."

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
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
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
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
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
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

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