ATP

Djokovic looks to emulate Nadal and Federer longevity as he prepares for Australia return

By Sports Desk December 23, 2022

Novak Djokovic wants to play for as long as his body is able as he aims to emulate Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer after coming through a challenging 2022 campaign.

Djokovic began last season in somewhat controversial circumstances after he was barred from the Australian Open for his stance on vaccination for the global coronavirus pandemic.

The 21-time grand slam champion lost his world number one spot after failing to defend his French Open crown but roared back to glory at Wimbledon.

A record-matching fifth ATP Finals title took him level with the recently retired Federer and 35-year-old Djokovic has no intentions of slowing down in the new year.

"I would like to play as long as I possibly can," he stated in Dubai on Friday. "I don't have really any number in my head.

"Things are progressing so far pretty well for me. I can't complain. So as long as I play at this level, as long as I have the fire, I'll keep going."

Djokovic may have been unceremoniously deported from Australia earlier this year amid the fallout over his vaccination status but he has enjoyed playing at the first grand slam of the year in recent seasons.

At no other grand slam event has the Serbian been more prolific, with nine titles to date, and he is relishing the chance to start his season in Melbourne once more.

"I'm just glad to have a chance to start there," he added. "My record has been pretty decent over the years in Australia. So I look forward to going there.

"I always ask for the best for myself. Over the years, I've been really fortunate to start very strong in Australia and love playing there.

"After obviously what happened earlier this year, hopefully, I can have a decent reception there, and that can help me play some good tennis."

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    Andy Murray hinted he was heading into the “last few months” of his tennis career after battling from a set down to beat Denis Shapovalov in Dubai to secure his second win of 2024.

    The three-time grand slam champion has been forced to fend off retirement talk following a string of first-round defeats and looked set for another early exit when Shapovalov, a former top 10 player, took the opening set.

    Murray had struggled to breach the serve of his 24-year-old Canadian opponent, but produced a trademark gutsy display to edge a second-set tie-breaker before keeping his composure to break twice in the decider and secure a 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-3 win after two hours and 33 minutes.

    Victory saw Murray become only the fifth man in the Open Era to claim 500 tour-level wins on a hard court and he will face either fifth seed Ugo Humbert or wild card Gael Monfils in the second round.

    However, rather than his match-up against one of the two Frenchman, it was the 36-year-old Scot’s longer-term future which was again a hot topic following his win, with Murray admitting he probably does not have “too long left” in the sport.

    “People read a lot into what I say on the court sometimes and it’s not always rational,” Murray said.

    “I obviously still love competing and still love the game, but it gets harder and harder the older you get to compete with the young guys and keep your body fit and fresh.

    “Not easy, I probably don’t have too long left, but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months.”

    Murray won his most recent meeting against Shapovalov, but that was in 2022 and he entered this match in torrid form with only one win this year.

    Shapovalov signalled his intent with three aces in his opening service game before the duo traded a number of early holds.

    The first break point opportunity did not occur until the ninth game and, while Murray saved it at 15-40 down, Shapovalov outlasted the Scot in a lengthy rally on the next point to move 5-4 up.

    Murray let his frustration show after his wayward backhand gifted Shapovalov the initiative and chucked his racket at the court before the Canadian closed out the opener with two more aces.

    Former world number one Murray produced a strong response at the start of the second set and remarkably produced three successful challenges on his serve.

    Murray followed that up with a first break point opportunity and, while it came and went, the 36-year-old did break Shapovalov at the next time of asking to move 3-1 up.

    Shapovalov had sent down two double-faults to aid Murray’s cause, but hit back immediately with a break of his own before he consolidated it after a 10-minute service game which included a 137mph ace.

    Murray had to display his battling skills to keep the second set on serve at 4-4 and a tie-breaker was ultimately required, which the Scot edged to win a marathon 75-minute set.

    Shapovalov’s serve had let him down towards the end of the second set and his struggles continued with two double-faults to begin the third.

    It handed Murray the ascendancy and he took full advantage to claim a confidence-boosting 500th hard-court win of his career.

    Murray said: “It’s not bad. Obviously hard court has been a great surface for me over the years and 500 is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that.

    “There are not many players that have done that, so great to get to 500 before I’m done.”

    An emotional-sounding Murray finished his on-court interview by trying to point out his father in the crowd, saying: “My dad’s come to support me this week which means a lot.”

  • Andy Murray edges past Denis Shapovalov in Dubai for second win of 2024 Andy Murray edges past Denis Shapovalov in Dubai for second win of 2024

    Andy Murray dug deep to secure a second win of 2024 with a 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov in the first round of the Dubai Open.

    The three-time grand-slam champion has been forced to fend off retirement talk following a string of first-round defeats and looked set for another when Shapovalov, a former top-10 player, claimed the opening set.

    Murray had struggled to breach the serve of his 24-year-old opponent, but produced a trademark gutsy display to edge a second-set tie-breaker and kept his composure to break twice in the decider to secure a much-needed win after two hours and 33 minutes.

    The most recent meeting between the duo went to Murray, but that was in 2022 and he entered this match in torrid form with only one win this year.

    Shapovalov signalled his intent with three aces in his opening service game before the duo traded a number of early holds.

    The first break point opportunity did not occur until the ninth game and, while Murray saved it at 15-40 down, Shapovalov outlasted the Scot in a lengthy rally on the next point to move 5-4 up.

    Murray let his frustration show after his wayward backhand gifted Shapovalov the initiative and chucked his racket at the court before the Canadian closed out the opener with two more aces.

    Former world number one Murray produced a strong response at the start of the second set and remarkably produced three successful challenges on his serve.

     

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    Buoyed by his eagle-eyes, Murray followed this up with a first break point opportunity and, while it came and went, the 36-year-old did break Shapovalov at the next time of asking to move 3-1 up.

     

    Shapovalov had sent down two double-faults to aid Murray’s cause, but hit back immediately with a break of his own before he consolidated it after a 10-minute service game which included a 137mph ace.

    Murray had to display his trademark battling skills to keep the second set on serve at 4-4 and a tie-breaker was ultimately required.

    Several mini-breaks followed, but it was Murray who made sure the match went the distance after he edged a marathon 75-minute set with an excellent trade-off with Shapovalov after he came into the net.

    Shapovalov’s serve had let him down towards the end of the second set and his struggles continued with two double-faults to begin the third.

    It handed Murray the ascendancy and he was able to consolidate with a succession of quick holds to move within sight of a precious victory.

    Murray had to work hard to hold in the eighth game of the decider and it broke Shapovalov’s resistance with the Canadian broken again to hand the Briton a confidence-boosting 500th hard-court win of his career.

  • On this day in 2020: Maria Sharapova announces retirement in Vanity Fair article On this day in 2020: Maria Sharapova announces retirement in Vanity Fair article

    Maria Sharapova used an article in Vanity Fair to announce she was “saying goodbye” to tennis, on this day in 2020.

    Sharapova had struggled with chronic shoulder problems for some time and the five-time grand slam champion and former world number one had dropped to 373rd in the rankings.

    The then-32-year-old said it would be a wrench to walk away, writing: “How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known?

    “How do you walk away from the courts you’ve trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love – one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys – a sport where you found a family, along with fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?

    “I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis – I’m saying goodbye.”

    Having announced her talent by winning Wimbledon at the age of just 17 in 2004, Sharapova went on to establish herself as one of the greats of her era – among her contemporaries, only Serena and Venus Williams won more slam singles titles.

    Sharapova added the US Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 before twice lifting the trophy at Roland Garros, in 2012 and 2014. She is one of only 10 women to achieve the career Grand Slam.

    Her impact on court was trumped by her profile off it, with the Russian the world’s highest-earning female athlete for much of her career.

    In 2016 came the bombshell announcement that she had failed a doping test for the cardiac drug meldonium, which had been added to the banned list at the start of that year.

    Sharapova was banned for two years, reduced to 15 months on appeal.

    She returned to action in April 2017 but was unable to reach her previous heights, peaking at a high of 21 in the rankings and reaching just one more grand slam quarter-final.

    In July 2022, Sharapova became a mother with the birth of her son Theodore and has taken up pickleball in her post-retirement life.

    Earlier this month, she partnered up with John McEnroe to take on Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf – in Pickleball Slam 2 – losing out on the one million USD (£789,000) prize.

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