MELBOURNE -- As he has done before, Novak Djokovic ended his pre-Australian Open press conference by handing out chocolate to reporters. "It's just tradition -- I'm not bribing you guys,'' he said. And naturally, these were healthy, gluten-free energy balls with cacao, plant-based milk and coconut. "Oh, my God,'' he said, savoring one.
The sweet-tasting energy balls were good, but the real question heading into the Australian is whether Djokovic will be able to savor the Calendar Slam this year that he so narrowly missed in 2015?
"It's only the beginning of the season. It's too early to talk about what I can or can't do later in the season,'' Djokovic said when asked about the possibility. "I'm here to focus on Australian Open. I think, as all the players taking part in this year's first Grand Slam, I would like to do the best as I can and fight for the trophy.
"[Last year] was the best season and best year of my life, undoubtedly. I enjoyed every moment spent on the court. I'll try to obviously carry that confidence and high level of performance that I've had, especially towards the end of the year, into the new season.''
If any man can do so for the first time since Rod Laver in 1969, it's Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 with almost twice as many points as No. 2 Andy Murray (16,790 to 8,945). He came oh so close to accomplishing the Calendar Slam last year, winning at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open, but just missing the elusive French Open title when he lost to Stan Wawrinka in the final. It was the second time Djokovic won three majors in a year. He won 11 tournaments and was 82-6 overall.
Naturally, he is the heavy favorite here, where he has won the trophy five times, including last year, as well as from 2011-13.
"This has been the most successful Grand Slam for me and probably one of the top two or three most successful tournaments in my career,'' Djokovic said. "Every time I go back to Rod Laver Arena, I have these memories come back to me from the first win back in 2008, of course, some of the epic matches I've played on that court.''
Djokovic won in Doha last week, where he didn't lose a set. This included a thorough beating of Rafael Nadal in the final. Djokovic said he had worked hard on certain aspects of his game in the short offseason, but when asked to specify what part of his game needed work, he talked about resting and recharging his batteries.
His first-round opponent here is 19-year-old Korean Hyeon Chung, who rose from 173 to 51 by the end of last year and is playing in his first Australian Open.
"He's one of the rising stars of the tennis world,'' Djokovic said. "I haven't seen him play too much, honestly. I know that he's a tall fellow (6-1). He hits pretty solid from the back of the court. He doesn't have as powerful a serve as you would expect from someone of his height, but I'm going to do a little more analysis and research there to get myself ready.''
Djokovic said the Olympics in August are another goal for him, in addition to everything else. Which means he has the chance to do what no man has ever done: win a Golden Slam -- all four majors and an Olympic gold medal. (Steffi Graf is the only woman to do so, a feat she accomplished in 1988.) But to do so, he would have to fare even better than last year.
"Hopefully I can play many matches. That means that I would do well,'' Djokovic said. "If I am able to do the same or better, like 2015, I'm not sure. Honestly, as I said, it's just the beginning.''
Better order more energy balls.