He’s been dethroned as world No.1 but one of Novak Djokovic’s closest allies insists the Serb remains a firm favourite to land a record seventh Australian Open crown next month.
Battling “personal issues”, Djokovic’s unbroken 122-week reign atop the rankings came to an end with his loss to Andy Murray in last month’s winner-takes-all World Tour Finals decider.
Despite failing to add to his 12 majors since the French Open, where he became the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four grand slam crowns simultaneously, most rivals would kill for Djokovic’s end to the season.
Apart from the season-ending championship, Djokovic also reached the US Open final for the seventh time and won the Toronto Masters.
But the 29-year-old’s seven-title season – featuring 65 wins and just nine defeats – was otherwise tainted by rumours around his personal life and early exits from Wimbledon and the Rio Olympics.
For the first time since 2014 – and only the second time in five years – Djokovic won’t be top seed at Melbourne Park, where five-time runner-up Murray will instead be the hunted following his surge to world No.1.
But rankings don’t mean anything to Djokovic’s Davis Cup teammate Viktor Troicki.
Djokovic reached out to Troicki during his low moments at the end of 2016 and revealed a renewed hunger at Troicki’s wedding in Belgrade last week.
“He’s always there as a great friend of mine and I’m there for him,” Troicki told AAP from Belgrade.
“We’ve seen each other quite a bit. We’re in touch always and we see each other when we have time.
“He won in Melbourne there so many times and he feels right at home and I’m sure he’ll have refreshed the batteries and be a totally different player than he was at the end of 2016.
“He’ll be 100 per cent ready to go for the title in Melbourne.”
Far from frustrated by living in Djokovic’s shadows, Troicki says he’s honoured to play under the same flag.
He also has his own big hopes for 2017, when Troicki will bid to become the first player in the professional era to win three straight titles at the Sydney International from January 8.
“It would be an honour to do that,” said Troicki, who will be seeded third behind Dominic Thiem and Pablo Cuevas.
“It’s going to be tough. It’s always a strong field and it’s never easy.”