Djokovic goes for three in a row at Melbourne

‘The Joker’ looks to bedevil Aussie Open field

If you’re looking for a favorite in the men’s field at the 2021 Australian Open, look no further than Novak Djokovic.

Indeed, the 33-year-old Serb and World No. 1 has has been the big man on campus at Melbourne Park since his debut there in 2005, owning a record eight singles titles (including championships in the 2019 and 2020 tournaments), a perfect 8-0 mark in finals play and an overall 75-8 won-lost record across 16 events. And his eight wins at the tennis year’s first major make up almost half of his 17 titles in the Grand Slams.

His victory last year Down Under was far from his easiest. Mourning the death of his friend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash days earlier, Djokovic was met by stiff competition from Dominic Thiem in the final. Struggling with his energy levels and consistency early, he fell behind to the 26-year-old Austrian two sets to one. But a break point that Djokovic managed to save in the fourth set turned the tide and he went on to win that set, 6-3, before taking command and slamming the door on his opponent in the fifth, 6-4.

Afterward, Djokovic was as relieved as he was celebratory.

“Definitely my favorite court and my favorite stadium in the world,” he said at the end of the gut-wrenching see-saw final, which lasted nearly four hours.

Djokovic will return to defend his title from top-ranked players including Thiem, Rafael Nadal, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev when the 2021 Australian Open gets going Sunday Feb. 7 and airs through Feb. 21 on ESPN and ESPN2.

Birth date: May 22, 1987

Birthplace: Belgrade, Serbia

Height/weight: 6 feet 2 inches/176 pounds

Plays: Right-handed

Turned pro: 2003

ATP rank: 1

Honors and achievements: Grand Slam titles: Australian Open – 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020; Wimbledon – 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019; U.S. Open – 2011, 2015, 2018; ATP Tour winner, 2008, 2012-15; Olympic bronze medalist, 2008

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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