Novak Djokovic insists his new racquet – and not excess golf or partying – is to blame for his worrying form a week out from his Australian Open title defence.
The flak was flying Djokovic’s way after his first-round exit from last week’s Brisbane International, his lacklustre effort against Latvian Ernests Gulbis drawing widespread criticism.
The 21-year-old Serb on Saturday admitted his decision to spend New Year’s Eve in Belgrade, rather than honing his game in Australia, may have been the wrong one.
But Djokovic maintained his leisurely round of golf in Brisbane the day before playing Gulbis had nothing to do with his straight-sets loss and he vowed to continue hitting the fairways in Sydney this week.
“This is something I do to relax on my off days,” he said.
“I have a big rivalry with my coach. The last game I won, so I’m pretty confident right now coming to Sydney playing some golf.”
It is Djokovic’s first visit to the Harbour City and he is intent on enjoying himself.
“I’ve heard it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” he said.
“I hope I will have some time to visit the city as well, but the priority is to play hopefully a couple of matches and do as best I can.
“I wasn’t supposed to play here but I decided to play here because of the lack of the matches prior to the Australian Open and I think I need some more official matches so I can get into the rhythm.”
While he was hopeful his unscheduled departure in Brisbane would have no impact on his Open preparations, the reality is it already has.
Djokovic prefers to take the week before a grand slam tournament off, but said he had no choice but to accept a wildcard into Sydney to further familiarise himself with his new equipment.
“I went to Wilson, which I played with for the last three years, to Head and there’s a lot of mental involvement obviously if you make a big change and it takes some time,” Djokovic said.
“Of course you have to hit a lot of balls and you just have to feel comfortable.
“I didn’t feel in Brisbane comfortable with the racquet and with the circumstances, but it’s going to be better.”
The world No.3’s loss to Gulbis was the one and only time he has used his Head racquet in competition.
“I usually try to keep the week before any grand slam (free) because I want to prepare and I want to save as much energy as I can,” Djokovic said.
“Because you’re playing the best-of-five and it’s not easy under the difficult conditions, under the big heat.
“But, as I said, I’ve had a lack of the matches and I made some major changes, with the racquet for example, so I need to get some more matches under my belt so I can feel comfortable.”
As top seed in Sydney, Djokovic has a first-round bye and will open his campaign on Tuesday against either Andreas Seppi or Paul-Henri Mathieu.