Novak Djokovic makes no secret of his burning desire to become the first man to capture six Australian Open crowns.
The world No.1 delivered a sobering warning to his challengers on Sunday, insisting his focus was solely on defending his title and matching Roy Emerson’s all-time record achieved during the amateur era, back in the 1960s.
Djokovic is a raging Open favourite after snaring three of the sport’s four majors and collecting 11 trophies in total in one of the most dominant seasons in history last year.
“(It) was the best season and best year of my life, undoubtedly. I enjoyed every moment spent on the court,” Djokovic said on the eve of his Open opener against exciting young Korean Hyeon Chung.
Already there is talk of the Serb pulling off a fabled “golden slam” in 2016 – triumphing at the four majors in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York and at the Rio Olympic Games – in what would rank as arguably the greatest feat in men’s tennis history.
“I’ll try to obviously carry that confidence and high level of performance that I’ve had, especially towards the end of the year, into the new season,” Djokovic said.
He already has, the 29-year-old spanking Rafael Nadal for the loss of just three games in the Doha decider to edge ahead in tennis’s most enduring rivalry for the first time in his career.
Djokovic is now 24-23 in his decade-long series with Nadal, having won nine of their past 10 meetings.
He drew level with Roger Federer (22-22) last year with victories over the Swiss in the Wimbledon and US Open finals and has dominated four-time Open runner-up Andy Murray to such an extent he is now 21-9 clear of the world No.2 after taking 10 of their past 11 encounters.
Djokovic, though, is remaining in the here and now, refusing to think of anything but a successful Open title defence.
“It’s too early to talk about what I can or can’t do later in the season. I’m here to focus on Australian Open,” he said.
“The opening week of the year in Doha went extremely well for me. I haven’t dropped a set.
“I’ve been preparing well, taking some time to really work on certain things, get a good foundation, good base for the long season that includes Olympic Games, which of course is one of the top priorities for me and many other players.
“Hopefully I can play many matches. That means that I would do well. If I am able to do the same or better, like 2015, I’m not sure.
“Honestly, it’s just the beginning. I try to take one tournament at a time.”
Djokovic would be wise to remain guarded as Murray, Federer, Nadal and fourth-seeded 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka also having their own designs on the trophy.
Wawrinka, the only player to conquer Djokovic in Melbourne in the past six years, also scuppered the Serb’s grand slam dream in last year’s French Open final.
But the Swiss says he’s too busy worrying on his own game to be concerned about the world No.1.
“For sure he’s playing amazing. The level he’s putting is quite amazing,” Wawrinka said.
“That’s why he’s No.1 in the world. For me, that doesn’t change anything for this tournament.
“I’m confident with my game.”
NOVAK DJOKOVIC HEAD-TO-HEAD AGAINST HIS MAIN AUSTRALIAN OPEN RIVALS
21-9 v 2-Andy Murray
22-22 v 3-Roger Federer 22-22
21-4 v 4-Stan Wawrinka 21-4
24-23 v 5-Rafael Nadal