Melbourne - Novak Djokovic said he wasn't planning to
replace Boric Becker in his coaching team and deflected criticism from the German
about his work-rate as he prepared to defend his Australian Open title on
Djokovic, seeking a record seventh Australian Open crown
after being ousted as world number one by Andy Murray, heads into the year's
first Grand Slam with long-time coach Marian Vajda and his newly appointed
assistant Dusan Vemic.
"I'm not thinking of bringing anybody in. This is the
coaching team that there is," said Djokovic, who split with Becker after
three trophy-filled seasons late last year.
Djokovic sidestepped a question about Becker's remarks that
the Serb's training intensity had dropped during a sudden plunge in form in the
second half of 2016.
"We've had amazing success. It's all I can say. I don't
want to go back and comment on anything. I kept a very friendly relationship
with Boris. We just went separate ways," Djokovic said.
In Melbourne, Djokovic, seeded two, will be hoping to show
he's back to his best after a period of sustained dominance abruptly ended last
year after the French Open.
The Serb bettered Murray in a thrilling final this month in
Doha, a performance that suggested he may be regaining his edge -- although he
insisted he was never "invincible".
"Nobody is invincible. I never thought of myself as a
superior player on the court, even though of course at times I was very
confident, I was winning a lot of matches," he said.
"But (I know) how it feels on the court if you get overconfident,
that's why I don't want to get into that kind of state of mind.
"I still want to put myself in a position where I'm
quite even to other players, fight for this trophy as anybody else, even though
I'm defending champion."
Djokovic said getting back to world number one wasn't his
top priority. He starts the season with 12 Grand Slam titles, two shy of Rafael
Nadal's tally and five off Roger Federer's 17.
"As a consequence of the results, if I become number
one, that's great. Of course, that's what I want. But it's not my main
priority, let's say," he said.
He faces a difficult first opponent in the shape of Fernando
Verdasco, the Spanish left-hander with a "complete" game who ousted
Nadal in five sets in last year's opening round.
"I still haven't had any nightmares, so I can't call it
a nightmare draw. I just see it as a huge challenge. I hope I'll be able to
deliver," Djokovic said.
Another challenge could be Australia's summer-time weather,
with temperatures forecast to soar towards 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) during
the first week.
Djokovic has bitter memories of the Melbourne heat, after he
was forced to retire with "heat illness" during his 2009
quarter-final against Andy Roddick.
"I don't know still a player that enjoys playing in 40
plus or 35 plus (degrees). It's same for everybody. It's not easy," he
"At the end of the day, that's what you expect. You
come to Australia during the summertime, and the conditions can get quite
challenging and extreme."