Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic says he’s “hurt” by constant criticism and “unfair” treatment.
Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in Sunday night’s Open final, a triumphant end to a tumultuous journey Down Under.
The world No.1 sparked uproar by issuing a list of requests, including the reduction of quarantine time, early in his stay. He claimed that the list was “misconstrued” as his own demands, rather than representation of the concerns of players in lockdown.
He was also accused of playing-up a mid-tournament injury, which he revealed after the final to be “a muscle tear, of the abdominal oblique muscle”. It was a legitimate problem, Djokovic insisted, yet became a conspiracy theory.
Djokovic might have 18 Grand Slams titles but he remains a polarising figure. It is not a status that pleases him.
“Yeah, of course it hurts. I’m a human being like yourself, like anybody else,” he said in his post-final press conference.
“I have emotions. I don’t enjoy when somebody attacks me in the media openly and stuff. Of course, I cannot say I don’t care about it or whatever.
“Of course, it does [hurt]. I have to be honest. But I think I’ve developed a thick skin over the years to just dodge those things and focus on what matters to me the most.”
Djokovic certainly did that, emerging from the criticism and the injury to thump Medvedev in what most expected to be a tight final. The Serbian great needed the win, according to coach Goran Ivanisevic.
“Actually he needed this victory so badly. There is somebody upstairs who see all this unfairness with a lot of media and people they doing to him,” Ivanisevic said.
“He is going through lot of, you know, especially after last year, US Open [disqualification], then pretty poor final of Roland Garros, and is not easy.
“Coming here, he spent 42 days quarantine. Again, he tried to help the players. Again, he’s only him. It’s his fault, like everybody else attacking to him. Nobody else to attack, so let’s attack Novak.
“Then this injury happen out of nowhere. Unbelievable. To be honest, I can’t believe that I’m sitting here today talking to you as a member of the team of the guy who won No.9 Australian Open.”
Djokovic’s mental strength has become formidable over the course of his career. He said that he’d been unable to entirely block out the “unfair” criticism and had forced himself to focus on the task of again winning the Open.
“For me, the main thing was tov really direct all my thoughts and attention and energy into what matters for me the most, which is try to recover, do everything properly, stick to the routines, to the things that make me feel comfortable, and put myself in a best possible state, condition, and position to win matches,” he said.
“That’s what I’ve done. It’s much easier said than done. I’ve invested a lot of energy, mental energy mostly, to that. My team that has been staying with me the last couple of weeks in the house, we watched tennis, but we were not following – at least when I was with them, maybe they were following when I was not with them – the news and stuff like this, getting involved and speculating, discussing, having conversations between us about what someone said in the media or whatever.
“I know that’s completely unnecessary for me. It did come to me. I mean, sometimes it’s really difficult to avoid it in a way. I mean, some of the things that some people say, of course, it does come across here and there when you’re watching a tennis match, commentary, someone mentions it, whatever.
“In some way or another it comes to you. Of course, it’s not nice to hear that. I mean, it also seems unfair from some people that kind of criticise and judge without really checking before.
“But as I said, it’s not really the first time. I have so much experience with this because it happened so many times in my life, in my career, that I experience that. It will probably not be the last one.
“Look, at the end of the day everyone who has the stage has the right to say what they want to say. It’s a matter on my side whether I’m going to react or not, in which way I’m going to react. I didn’t allow it to hinder my performance. I think winning the trophy is in a way my answer.’
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