Shortly after 35-year-old Novak Djokovic despatched one other significantly youthful participant to win a twenty second Grand Slam title, his coach Goran Ivanisevic was requested how lengthy the brand new Australian Open champion may keep on the prime stage.
The response most likely despatched a chill by means of the remainder of the ATP Tour.
“Positively two, three extra years,” stated Ivanisevic, who has helped Djokovic win seven of his main titles.
“His stage is unbelievable. He’s from outer house. His mind is working completely different.”
Djokovic, who turns 36 in Could, confirmed all aspects of his greatness on the best way to beating 24-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s Melbourne closing.
The Serb has received 5 of the previous seven Grand Slams he has performed in, though this victory got here in a event the place Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz – the world primary earlier than the occasion and new chief of the following technology – was dominated out by means of damage.
BBC Sport analyses why Djokovic stays so troublesome for the youthful gamers to topple.
Just about each youthful opponent talks earlier than a match about treating Djokovic like every other opponent – taking part in the person and never the identify.
However what number of actually imagine it and do not get overawed?
Greece’s Tsitsipas was the final of 4 gamers at the very least a decade youthful than Djokovic to be crushed by him in Melbourne.
Prior to now 4 years Djokovic has misplaced solely 5 of the 45 matches he has performed towards opponents beneath the age of 23.
Djokovic has received six of his seven Grand Slam finals in that interval towards gamers born within the Nineteen Nineties, with Russia’s Daniil Medvedev touchdown the youthful technology’s solely success within the 2021 US Open.
Tsitsipas insists Djokovic’s stranglehold on the youthful gamers is not a “curse”.
“I do not see this as one thing annoying. This is superb for the game, to have opponents like him, to have champions like him,” stated Tsitsipas, who has misplaced his previous 10 conferences with Djokovic.
Whether or not Tsitsipas sincerely thinks that could be a completely different matter. If he does, it looks like he’s an exception.
It has been telling that Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev and American Tommy Paul – the gamers whom Djokovic made mild work of within the Australian Open quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively – mentioned the dread which gamers really feel when seeing his identify of their a part of the draw.
Rublev, 25, laughed when he stated after his last-16 win that he wished Djokovic was within the reverse aspect – nevertheless it was no laughing matter as he turned more and more despondent on the best way to a straight-set beating.
“Plenty of gamers have a variety of respect for his sport,” stated 25-year-old Paul, who was additionally despatched in three units.
“No-one actually desires to see him on their a part of the draw.”
The on-court mentality
When the going will get robust on court docket, Djokovic will get going.
That’s notably related within the greatest moments of the largest matches and is a key cause why he has received 22 of the 33 Grand Slam finals he has performed.
Tsitsipas stated Djokovic, who saved 23 of 29 break factors through the Australian Open, together with two of three within the closing, is a participant who “pushes you to your limits” on the court docket.
“He is essential for us that need to get to his level sooner or later. Getting our asses kicked is for certain an excellent lesson each single time,” he stated.
“He has made me a significantly better participant. He has made my ranges of focus larger and better each single time I get to play him.
“You must be actually concerned and it’s a must to be devoted to the sport if you play towards him.”
The approach and techniques
Everybody has a sport plan going right into a match towards Djokovic. Executing towards somebody of his expertise is one other story.
As Paul put it after the semi-final, Djokovic could make them “play so dangerous”.
The American provided some perception into his techniques and the way Djokovic neutralised these plans.
“I needed to serve and volley some. I did not serve and volley as soon as,” he stated.
“After I did make my first serve, I felt like he was returning it to the baseline. I used to be mechanically on defence.
“I needed to throw in drop-shots. I did not get a chance to do any of that as a result of he was hitting so deep.
“I needed to vary up tempo with my slice. I missed my first three slices of the match. I used to be like ‘all proper, I will begin hitting my backhand, I am not slicing properly’.
“He did not let me do all these issues due to issues that he did so properly.”
Djokovic has lengthy appreciated the necessity to handle his physique to extend his profession and obtain success into his 30s.
He has commonly cited altering to a gluten-free eating regimen greater than a decade in the past as a recipe for his success.
Whereas he doesn’t take into account himself a vegan, Djokovic steers away from consuming meat, fish and different animal-based merchandise.
Taking over yoga and a every day routine of stretches has been key in serving to keep the extraordinary elasticity which he continues to point out when chasing down balls on the court docket.
“The way in which he is caring for his physique, the best way he method about the whole lot, the meals, it is superb. It is unbelievable, the extent,” stated Ivanisevic.
When Djokovic outlined his causes final 12 months for not having a vaccination towards coronavirus, he stated he needed to be “in tune with my physique as a lot as I presumably can”.
He added he had “at all times been an awesome pupil of wellness, well-being, well being, diet”.
With success comes scrutiny and Djokovic usually finds himself on the centre of drama – whether or not it’s of his personal making or not.
Final 12 months he was unable to defend his Australian Open title after being deported from the nation following a row over his Covid-19 vaccination standing.
Djokovic had additionally been hampered by a hamstring damage at Melbourne Park, which Ivanisevic reckoned would have dominated out “97% of the opposite gamers”.
“If I flip again the time two and a half weeks in the past, I wasn’t actually liking my likelihood with the best way I felt with my leg,” stated Djokovic.
“Then it was only a matter of survival of each single match, making an attempt to take it to the following spherical.”
One other curveball was thrown his manner earlier than Friday’s semi-final towards Paul.
His father Srdjan was pictured exterior Rod Laver Area with supporters of Russian president Vladimir Putin, creating an issue which Djokovic stated was “not nice” to take care of.
However, he managed to place all these distractions behind him as he levelled Rafael Nadal’s file of males’s majors.
“It required an infinite psychological power actually to remain current, to remain targeted, to take issues daily,” Djokovic stated.
Few would wager towards the world primary successful extra majors than every other participant within the historical past of the game, until Tsitsipas, Alcaraz or the remainder of the youthful technology – plus 36-year-old Nadal, set to go for a fifteenth triumph on the French Open in June – can cease him.
“In fact, 35 will not be 25, despite the fact that I need to imagine it’s. However I nonetheless really feel there may be time forward of me. Let’s examine how far I am going,” stated Djokovic.