Djokovic: my toes were bleeding
NOVAK Djokovic enjoyed the suffering and pain of near six-hour Australian Open final victory over Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic admitted that he felt like crying with joy after his five-set victory over Rafael Nadal on Sunday.
Finishing at 1.35am and lasting only seven minutes short of six hours, this Australian Open final shattered all kinds of records and set a new standard for tennis in the modern era. Asked if it was the greatest match of his life, Djokovic replied simply “yes”.
Then he added: “[It] comes out on the top because the fact that we played almost six hours is incredible. It’s the longest final in the history of all grand slams, and just to hear that fact is making me cry, really.
“Both of us, physically, took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies. It was just the matter of maybe luck in some moments and of wanting this more.”
Djokovic extended his sequence of victories over Nadal to seven, all of them in tournament finals. Yet, just like Andy Murray on Friday night, Nadal was far from despondent after the match.
The standard of Djokovic’s tennis is so high right now that anyone who pushes him to the brink is entitled to feel a sense of achievement even if they cannot quite get over the line.
“It was one of the losses I am most happy with in my career,” Nadal said. “It was, I think, a very good show. I wanted to win, but I am happy about how I did. I had my chances against the best player of the world today. I played more aggressive, with more winners than ever. My serve worked well. The mentality and the passion was there.
“I didn’t have mental problems today against him,” Nadal added. “I had in 2011 all these mental problems. So that’s another positive thing. Probably I never say so many positive things after I lose.”
On a muggy night in Melbourne, the physicality of the match inspired awe. And, yet, there was not so much as a visit from the trainer to deal with a cramping calf or thigh. That the players were still intact at the end was tribute to their conditioning.
When Nadal was asked if he had been aware of the match-clock ticking towards six hours, he replied: “You look around and you see the watch: five hours, four hours, three hours. Seems like never gonna finish, no? But that’s nice be there fighting, trying to go to the limit.
“When you are fit, when you have passion for the game, when you are ready to compete, you are able to suffer and enjoy suffering. Today I had this feeling, and is a really good one. I suffered during the match, but I enjoyed all the troubles that I had during all the match.”
That was a masochistic sentiment, perhaps, but one that Djokovic empathised with. “You’re trying to activate your legs, you’re trying to push yourself another point,” said the world No 1. “Just one more point, one more game. You’re going through so much suffering your toes are bleeding. Everything is just outrageous, but you’re still enjoying that pain.”
Djokovic was in buoyant mood when he came off the court, delivering an impromptu version of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell at the Melbourne Park staff party. It was approaching 4am by the time he had finished fulfilling his media commitments, but he showed no sign of wanting his bed.
“I don’t know how far I can go,” he said, “but right now I’m up for everything.”
The evidence from this tournament suggested that he can go one hell of a long way. Maybe even to victory at Roland Garros in June and a rare calendar Grand Slam.