Djokovic takes aim at elusive French Open

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates his win over Britain's Andy Murray in the men's final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates his win over Britain's Andy Murray in the men's final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

MELBOURNE, Australia — In years past, Novak Djokovic marked his victories at the Australian Open with rowdy late-night celebrations and bleary-eyed photo shoots the next morning in downtown Melbourne.

This year’s win made history but inspired a more sober reaction.

After beating Andy Murray to become the only man to win three consecutive Australian Open titles, the No. 1-ranked player didn’t feel the need to celebrate immediately.

Instead, he booked an early Monday flight home to start preparing for his next challenge: the clay courts of Europe.

The Serb has the Davis Cup next weekend and a few months away is the French Open — the one major that has eluded him. Djokovic now has six Grand Slam tournament trophies, four overall from the Australian Open and one each from Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2011. He came close last year at Roland Garros, but lost in the final to clay-court master Rafael Nadal.

“Of course, I want to go all the way in the French Open,” Djokovic said at his post-match news conference just after midnight.

His goal for the year is a big one, he said, when asked if he would choose a Roland Garros title over his No. 1-ranking.

“I’ll take everything,” the 25-year-old Djokovic said. “I have no reason not to be confident in myself.”

Djokovic never lacked self-confidence and his dominating performance at the Australian Open showed just why.

The elite group Djokovic heads includes No. 2 Roger Federer, No. 3 Murray and Nadal, whose creaky knees caused him to sit out this tournament and yield his No. 4 ranking to David Ferrer.

Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam-winner, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have combined to win 33 of the past 34 majors.

“I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment,” Djokovic said after beating Ferrer.

His 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 victory over Murray on Sunday night showed his mental toughness and supreme fitness in a match that contained riveting rallies between two of the best returners in the game.

The win deprived Murray of his chance to capitalize on his breakthrough year, when he won an Olympic gold and his first major title at the U.S. Open.

The season resumes next weekend with Serbia’s Davis Cup tie against Belgium, which was why Djokovic flew home early so he could celebrate with the people closest to him.

“The main reason is because I want to get to Europe as quick as possible so I can be ready for the Davis Cup tie,” said Djokovic.

Pattaya Open

Erakovic beats THIrd-seeded Hsieh: In Pattaya, Thailand, unseeded Marina Erakovic of New Zealand beat third-seeded Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan 6-2, 6-2 Monday in the first round of the Pattaya Open.

Hsieh lost to defending champion Daniela Hantuchova in last year’s semifinals and was upstaged on Monday by Erakovic, who is ranked 74th in the world.

Also, wild-card entrant Varatchaya Wongteanchai of Thailand beat Annika Beck of Germany 6-3, 6-3 and Alexandra Panova of Russia defeated Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6, 3-2 when the Romanian retired in the second set.

Mathilde Johansson of France defeated Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan 6-4, 6-3.