MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic Monday savoured the greatest win of his career, despite being left with bleeding toes and “outrageous” pain in his record Australian Open final win over Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic's thrilling five-set win over the Spaniard, the longest grand slam final at 5hr 53min, makes him just the fifth player in open history to win three straight grand slam titles.
“You're in pain, you're suffering, you know that you're trying to activate your legs, you're trying to push yourself another point, just one more point, one more game,” he said afterwards.
“You're going through so much suffering your toes are bleeding. Everything is just outrageous, you know, but you're still enjoying that pain.”
The 24-year-old said his Wimbledon triumph last year had been special, but the Melbourne win was even better.
“This one I think comes out on the top just because of the fact that we played almost six hours is incredible, incredible,” he said.
Djokovic added that now felt ready for a shot at the French Open, the next major on the calendar, where his best result is reaching the semi-finals.
“So I want to do well and I want to get to my first final at least in Paris. I have never been in the final there and I have a feeling that I'm ready this year to achieve that,” he said.
Djokovic's 2011 season left commentators short of superlatives as the Serb won a total of 10 titles and went on a 41-match winning streak, until Roger Federer beat him in the semi-finals in Paris.
“I'm prioritising grand slams this year, as every year, and Olympic Games. I think that's one of my highest goals,” he said.
“That doesn't mean of course that I'm not going to prepare well and perform my best in the other tournaments. It's just that, you know, the grand slams matter the most.”
Djokovic said as he cast around for answers as to how he could beat Nadal, whom he has now beaten in the past three grand slam finals, he even offered up a prayer. “It paid off, I guess,” he joked.
But the Serb, said he would now take time to savour his triumph before he returns to the tennis courts to prepare for the rest of the season.
“I'm not really concerned about the rest of the year how physically I'm going endure and all of that.
“It's just the start of the year. I'm going to have some weeks off now, and I'm going try to enjoy this victory as much as I can.
“Then back to office, you know, back to work, preparation. There is much that awaits for me, but I definitely should enjoy the present moment.”
NADAL BANISHES MENTAL DEMONS
It was Nadal's seventh successive loss to the Serb, all in finals.
Nadal apologised at his post-match news conference before ripping open a sachet of energy formula with his teeth and sucking it dry before taking questions.
“Fine,” he quipped after being asked how he felt following the five-hour 53-minute match.
“No, I'm tired, sure. Physically it was the toughest match I ever played ... I am tired.”
While Nadal rued his missed chances, he also chose to look on the bright side.
“(I had) very real chances to have the title and to win against a player who I lost six times last year,” he said.
“But I didn't. I never put him in this situation during 2011, all of 2011, so that's another positive thing for me.
“I didn't have mental problems today against him. I had in 2011 all these mental problems. Today I didn't have (any).
“So that's another positive thing. (I) probably never say that many positive things after I lose.”
Djokovic's rousing victory followed a gruelling five-set semi-final against Andy Murray, but Nadal said he was not surprised to see the Serb's iron-man heroics and rated his return of serve as “the best in history”.
Having lost a match that could stand in the record books for many years, Nadal, who suffered a knee twinge on the eve of his first-round match, consoled himself with the fact that “20 hours” before the tournament he did not know if he would even be competing.
Even the suffering in the final slog was enjoyment, he said.
“But that's nice (to) be there fighting, trying to go to the limit, bring your body to the limit of its chances,” he said.
“Something I really enjoyed, and I (have) always said it's good (to) suffer.
“So when you are fit, when you are with passion for the game, when you are ready to compete, you are able to suffer and enjoy suffering.
“I don't know if I express it very well, but it's something that maybe you understand ... I suffered during the match, but I enjoyed all the troubles that I had during all the match.”