MELBOURNE, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic’s love affair with Melbourne continued on Saturday as he completed his preparations for his Australian Open final against Britain’s Andy Murray.
The Serbian world number one broke through for his first grand slam title in 2008 and has won three of his five major titles on the blue Plexicushion surface at Melbourne Park.
And a day before his potential entry into the record books as the first man to win three successive Australian Open titles in the professional era, he began the PR battle to win the hearts and minds of the Australian fans as well.
“Well, happy Australia Day, first of all, to everybody who is Australian in the house,” said Djokovic, who was wearing a small koala lapel badge before he went on to answer why he though he played so well at the year’s first grand slam.
”It’s my most successful grand slam (and) conditions in general I like, especially in Rod Laver Arena.
”I just think that also a big reason is it’s the first big tournament of the year.
”Now we had a little bit longer off season which gave us more time to recharge our batteries, to work on some things, to get ready, you come out here and you want to win the first big trophy of the year.
“I guess that’s a fresh start that everybody wants.”
Djokovic is expected to be fresher than his increasingly familiar foe on Sunday having had an extra days’ rest after he beat David Ferrer in straight sets on Thursday, while Murray was forced into five sets against Roger Federer late into Friday.
The Serb, however, doubted that would have any effect on their match, given Murray had spent less than nine hours on court in five matches prior to his battle against Federer.
“Andy, yes, he has played a five set match against Roger last night. But aside that, he hasn’t been really tested the whole tournament,” Djokovic said.
“And also he’s considered as one of the physically strongest and fittest guys around. So I‘m sure he’s going to be fit for the finals.”
Murray beat Djokovic in last year’s U.S. Open final to claim his maiden grand slam title and the 25-year-old Serb, who demolished fourth seed Ferrer in a display of near perfect tennis, said he expected the final would not be as easy.
”I thought he absolutely deserved it because he’s been around as a top player for many years. He played in many finals of grand slams. He finally won his title.
”So I think that also gave him a lot of confidence for what was coming up after that. Obviously he’s showing again now why he’s one of the best players in the world.
”The fact that every time we played in last probably six, seven encounters, it was always a long matches, physically very demanding, going three sets and five sets in grand slams.
“So I guess we have to expect something similar to happen, long rallies, and I‘m ready for that.” (Editing by Patrick Johnston)