Novak Djokovic’s comments suggest his retirement may be closer than expected
Novak Djokovic has vowed to do all he can to re-write the tennis history books, but the timescale has to do that may be shorter than expected.
The Serbian legend return to the top of the world rankings after winning a tenth Australian Open title on Sunday, as he joined Rafael Nadal at the top of the list of male Grand Slam winners with a 22nd triumph.
Djokovic will not stop until he has overtaken Nadal and probably the mark of Margaret Court, who holds the all-time Grand Slam record after her 24 wins.
Yet it seems Djokovic’s family may hold the key to how much longer he continues to play at the highest level.
Djokovic’s parents were in Melbourne over the last couple of weeks, but his wife Jelena and his children did not make the journey for this tournament.
That has proved to be problematic for Djokovic, who admitted he will only continue in the sport so long as he has the backing of his wife and is willing to spend extended periods away from them.
“I don’t know when the end is going to happen in terms of professional career,” he said.
“Right now I have the motivation, I have the support of the close ones, which is also something that is probably underestimated and not maybe talked about a lot, but it’s a key, especially as a father.
“Being absent from the children is not something that makes me very happy. It’s a balancing act between me and my wife and the close people in my life.
“So her being there for our children and everything, it allows me to be able to do what I love and still make some strides, significant strides, in this sport.”
Djokovc went on to suggest he would continue to play the game so long as he was still chasing records as he added: “Of course, I have professional goals and ambitions.
“Those are grand slams and being No.1 in the world.
“Those two probably pinnacles of the professional tennis world have always been there as goals for me. So I do want to make more history of this sport, no doubt.”
Djokovic’s emotional reaction after his win against Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s Australian Open final highlighted the emotions that had built up inside him over the last few weeks.
With his father Srjdan absent from the final after he was embroiled in a media storm after having a photo taken with pro-Russian fans last week, this has been a challenging tournament for Djokovic.
“When I went into my box, I just think emotionally collapsed there and teared up,” he added.
“Especially my mother and my brother when I gave them a hug because up to that moment,
“I was not allowing myself to, I guess, be distracted with things off the court or whatever was happening in dealing with an injury, things happening off the court, as well, that could easily have been a big disturbance to my focus, to my game.
“It required an enormous mental energy really to stay present, to stay focused, to take things day by day, and really see how far I can go.”
The one empty seat in the stands should have belonged to Djokovic’s father Srdjan, but he again opted to stay away from public view after being filmed with pro-Russia activists last week – inadvertently, the family insisted.
He did celebrate with his son later outside the locker room, and Djokovic said: “We talked. I thought the things will calm down in terms of media and everything, but it didn’t.
“We both agreed it would probably be better that he is not there.
“That hurts me and him a lot because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows if they will repeat again. So it was not easy for him.”
Controversy is rarely far away from Djokovic, but there is no doubt this great champion will be a big loss to tennis when the moment comes for him to hang up his rackets for the last time.
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