Novak Djokovic reacts to equalling ‘special’ Australian Open record of ‘childhood idol’

Ewan West
Novak Djokovic celebrates after beating Taylor Fritz
Novak Djokovic celebrates at the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic has declared that it “means a lot” to match an Australian Open record held by fellow tennis great Monica Seles after reaching the semi-finals of the event. 

The world No 1 described Seles as one of his “childhood idols” and explained that sharing the achievement with the nine-time major champion “makes it even more special.”

Djokovic overcame world No 12 Taylor Fritz 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in three hours and 48 minutes in the quarter-finals of the 2024 Australian Open on Tuesday.

The win was Djokovic’s 33rd straight victory at the Melbourne Grand Slam and saw him equal Seles for the Open Era record for most consecutive wins at the event.

The Serbian, a 10-time Australian Open champion, has won the tournament the last four times he has competed and has not lost in Melbourne since 2018.

Seles also triumphed at the Grand Slam in four straight appearances in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1996, before seeing her streak end in the semi-finals of the 1999 edition.

Legendary Serbian tennis coach Jelena Gencic, Djokovic’s childhood coach who he describes as his “tennis mother”, also trained Seles, who was born in Yugoslavia.

In his press conference after beating Fritz, Djokovic was told his Australian Open streak had matched a milestone held by former world No 1 Seles.

“Of course, of course. It means a lot. I didn’t know that I’m sharing this achievement, this record with her. It makes it of course even more special for me. I really love Monica,” the 36-year-old said.

“I have had Monica in my head when I was growing up in Serbia pretty much every single day, because Jelena Gencic, my tennis mother, as I like to call her, she passed away in 2012, worked with Monica when she was young.

“So I was hearing a lot about Monica, Monica this, Monica that, Monica eats this, Monica sleeps this much, Monica practises this way. So Monica was definitely one of my childhood idols and heroes, and I looked up to her very much.

“So when I got a chance to meet with her first time it was really — I was very nervous. You know, so obviously she speaks our language because she was born in Serbia but spent most of her life, as she’s doing now, in United States.

“Yeah, I know that she had an incredible career, and particularly she played well in Australia. Yeah, we all wonder how far she could have went if she didn’t, yeah, had to go through what she went through. Yeah, about Monica, I have only nice words to say about her. I’m really glad that we are sharing this record.”

The 24-time Grand Slam champion was also asked what it was about Melbourne that helped him dig deep to keep extending his incredible winning streak.

“Well, I mean, if there is any tournament where I’m going to dig deep, it’s the Grand Slam, right? Particularly here where, you know, I’m aware of the streak that I’m on and the amount of matches that I have won in my career on the Rod Laver Arena. I don’t want to let that go,” Djokovic added.

“The longer the streak goes, the more that kind of confidence, also expectations built, but also the willingness to really walk the extra mile, so to say. Yeah, I just love playing in this court. It’s been ‘the’ court for me in my career.”

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