MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic is determined to be the man with the most Grand Slam titles when he finally puts on his racket.
Novak Djokovic, Australian Open winner from Serbia, poses with the trophy during a photo shoot at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. REUTERS / Hannah McKay
The Serb took 17th place when he defeated Austrian Dominic Thiem and won an eighth Australian Open title at Melbourne Park on Sunday. He finished third behind 20-year-old Swiss Roger Federer and 19-year-old Spaniard Rafa Nadal.
Djokovic said he was aware that he, 38-year-old Federer and 33-year-old Nadal were being chased by a younger generation of players led by Thiem, Alex Zverev, Stephanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev.
However, the 32-year-old said that careful career planning will mean he can continue to fight for the game's top prizes, and said that his goal was to win more of it than Federer and Nadal.
"I'm not going to lie to you and say it's not, of course," the world's number one told reporters at Melbourne's Botanical Gardens on Monday.
"I understand that I am not in my twenties, so it is obvious that things are a little different, and I have to be more precise and organized in my preparations for the Grand Slam and I have to prioritize these tournaments."
"I am thrilled to be able to get involved in most of the Grand Slam titles at this stage of my career, and it is what matters most professionally."
Djokovic, who was defeated 1-2 against Thiem for the first time in an Australian Open final, said at the post-game press conference that his hunger for success was due to the fact that he grew up in a time of conflict and deprivation.
"My upbringing was in Serbia during several wars in the 1990s," he said.
“It was a difficult time, there was an embargo in our country where we had to wait in line for bread, milk, water and some basic things in life.
“That was probably my basis, exactly the fact that I literally came from nothing and difficult living conditions with my family and with my people.
“Coming back to remembering where I come from keeps inspiring me and motivating me to put even more pressure on myself.
"This is probably one of the reasons why I managed to find the additional equipment or the mental strength to master challenges when they presented themselves."
Djokovic added another $ 4.12 million ($ 2.84 million) to his sizeable fortune on Sunday, but said he could not retire until he had time to appreciate what he did on the tennis court have.
"I will probably understand all of these successes better when I retire and have a little more time and space," he said.
Letter from Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, edited by Peter Rutherford