Djokovic makes lasting impression
MELBOURNE, Australia -- So loose was three-time defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic on Sunday, so relaxed was the tournament's No. 2 seed as he heads into his seventh consecutive quarterfinal here, that he had no problem grabbing a racket and performing an impromptu imitation of coach Boris Becker before a deliriously appreciative crowd.
That the routine -- prompted by Australian TV analyst and former American champion Jim Courier -- came just moments after Djokovic made short work of No. 15 seed Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 in their fourth-round match was more evidence that Djokovic loves this place, loves this tournament and loves putting on a show for anyone who wants to watch.
Fognini didn't mind. A close friend of Djokovic's and a crowd-pleaser himself, the 26-year-old Italian playfully jostled with linesmen, mimed playing video games during a changeover, threw balls into the crowd, dribbled a tennis ball like a soccer player, sprayed an entire bottle of water on his head and shirtless upper torso as he pretended to sunbathe and generally joined in on the festivities.
"Tennis is not a drama," Fognini explained in Italian.
Especially when you're witnessing greatness.
It took Djokovic just 1 hour, 33 minutes to complete his workday and extend his tour winning streak to 28 matches. He won 88 percent of his first serves and 71 percent of his second and hit 33 winners.
"I felt from the start of this tournament that I've been elevating my game as the tournament is going on," Djokovic said. "Every match is better … the general feeling on the court, all the shots, using the court position really well, being aggressive, playing my style of the game.
"That's what I've done really well today overall from the first to the last point. I haven't allowed my opponent to come back to the match. Mentally, I was there. I was tough. I was focused. I feel great about myself in this moment. There is this confidence that I carry on obviously from many wins that I had in last two months of the 2013 season, and I started off this season in a good style. I'm trying to keep it up."
Djokovic, who hasn't dropped a set en route to his 19th straight Grand Slam quarterfinal, next plays No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka in a rematch of last year's five-hour epic.
Last year, Djokovic defeated Wawrinka 12-10 in the fifth set of a fourth-round match that lasted 5 hours, 2 minutes and concluded at 1:41 a.m. local time.
But clearly Djokovic has his eyes on a final widely anticipated to include him and No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal and ultimately becoming the first man in the Open era and second in history to win four consecutive Australian Open titles and five in all.
Djokovic admits he has "nothing too much I can work on." If there is pressure, he said, it is welcome.
"Pressure is always there as a top player, especially here defending my title for a couple years in a row," he said. "I do feel there's always high expectations, but it's all part of our sport. It's what we need to deal with. It's what we need to accept and try to use it in a positive way.
"Pressure is a privilege in a way because it means you're doing something that is very valuable, that is, of course, very important. In my life, I've always dreamed of being on this stage, competing at the highest level. So I try to look at the pressure on the brighter side, right?"
On Sunday, the pressure was relieved not just with a stellar match but a curtain call afterward, when Courier requested an impersonation of Becker from the tour's best impressionist and Djokovic was only too happy to oblige.
With Becker and the rest of the Rod Laver court crowd howling their approval, Djokovic performed an exaggerated rendition of the six-time Grand Slam champion's serving motion and, if that wasn't enough, did an encore send-up of Becker now, parroting the hunched-over walk of an old man.
"The first impression, when I [did] all the serves, he was happy and he is applauding," Djokovic said. "When I said how he is today with his problems in the back and everything, he was not so happy about that. …
"But, no, it's all for good laughs. It's actually the first time [in] a long time I've actually done Becker imitation. … Was [I] OK? I'm going to gain [a] few kilos, and [I] have to color my hair in order to do the proper Becker imitation."
All for good laughs.