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Tennis news: 'Maybe even beyond' - Djoker fires ominous warning as he takes inspiration from NFL legend

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26th December, 2023
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Novak Djokovic says he’s taking inspiration from NFL great Tom Brady and wants to play to 40 and possibly beyond.

Djokovic, 36, is in Saudi Arabia, where he’s set to take on world No.2 young gun Carlos Alcaraz in an exhibition match ahead of the 2024 season.

He revealed he’s not ready to step aside for an exciting new wave of stars just yet and the greatest NFL quarterback in history has shown him the road map.

Watch every Australian Open match ad-free, live & on demand with centre court in 4K Ultra-HD on the home of Grand Slam tennis, Stan Sport.

Brady played for 23 seasons before retiring at 44.

“Why stop when you are still playing great? So I will keep going. I know (Tom Brady) personally as well, and I learnt from him, from his example, and, hopefully, I can have a career that goes up to 40 and maybe even beyond, let’s see,” Djokovic told reporters on Wednesday.

“I feel great in my own body right now, and I have been playing some really high quality tennis. 2023 was one of my best seasons I’ve had in my life. I will take it one by one and see how far I go.”

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Djokovic hailed Brady as “a great example of a champion in his sport.

“He has put a lot of hours, a lot of time, into self care and recovery, making sure that every aspect of his body and mind is covered so that he can have a long-lasting and successful career.”

‘Sinner is phenomenal’

While most judges see Carlos Alcaraz as heir apparent to Novak Djokovic, Italian Jannik Sinner has started to close the gap according to form England ace Tim Henman.

Henman, a pundit with Eurosport, says Sinner’s storming finish to 2023 has him well placed to make a big push in 2024.

Sinner had an impressive run – with multiple big titles including beating Daniil Medvedev in two finals who he had previously never beaten and also reaching the final of the ATP Finals where he lost to Djokovic.

He also beat Djokovic earlier in that tournament and at the David Cup finals.

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Sinner and Alcaraz have been training together ahead of the new season.

“It looks like when Sinner and Alcaraz have played, they’ve had incredible matches. They are different personalities. They’ve got similar games. I think Alcaraz has got a little bit more versatility but in terms of ball striking and power from the back of the court, Sinner is phenomenal,” said Henman.

“I felt that Alcaraz was definitely a good step ahead of Sinner but the way Sinner played at the end of last year, I think Sinner has absolutely closed the gap.”

Demon dodges girlfriend clash

World No.12 Alex de Minaur has squashed the prospect of facing his girlfriend Katie Boulter at the United Cup, saying he was in danger of being embarrassed if he took it up to her on the doubles court.

De Minaur and three-time grand slam quarter-finalist Ajla Tomljanovic are the headline acts for Australia at the mixed-teams event that kicks off in Perth and Sydney on Friday.

Matt Ebden and Storm Hunter are the likely candidates to represent the nation in the doubles.

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Australia face a tough task to get out of a group that also includes Great Britain and the US.

Friday’s showdown against the British has the potential to pit de Minaur against GB’s world No.56 Boulter in the mixed doubles, but it seems the dream showdown won’t happen.

“I’m definitely not a doubles specialist,” de MInaur said during a trip to Rottnest Island on Wednesday.

“So it would definitely be Matty. I wouldn’t want to put myself out there and embarrass myself.

“It was a lot of fun (over Christmas with Katie). There was some chat here and there, giving each other a little bit of crap.

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“We enjoyed it and it’s going be a very interesting experience.”

De Minaur has set his sights on cracking the singles top 10 in the coming season, with his summer training program tailored to beefing him up physically in order to contend for the Australian Open in January.

The 24-year-old won his second Newcombe Medal as Australia’s best player in 2023, for a year in which he claimed five top-10 scalps, won his seventh ATP Tour title and reached his maiden Masters 1000 decider.

He also made it through to the fourth round of the US Open and Australian Open, where he was beaten by eventual winner Novak Djokovic.

The United Cup provided the perfect launchpad for de Minaur’s successful 2023, with victory over Rafael Nadal kicking off his season.

He will be up against world No.18 Cameron Norrie when Australia take on Great Britain on Friday night at Perth’s RAC Arena, and world No.10 Taylor Fritz in the battle against the US on Monday evening.

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“He’s a great competitor,” de Minaur said of Norrie.

“We always have tough battles. He got me last year to start off the year, so hopefully I can get my revenge.”

This summer represents a farewell for 34-year-old cult hero John Millman, who will retire after the Australian Open.

Millman is part of the Australian team at the United Cup and he’s very clear on what his role will be during the tournament.

“I’m ready to cheerlead to the best of my abilities. I’ve been working on my dance moves and I’m ready to go,” Millman said with a smile.

“Alex is hitting the ball great. We had a good hit out yesterday.

“To be able to to share one last experience with one of my best mates is awesome. It’s something that I’m going to relish.”

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The Australia team took a chopper on Wednesday to Rottnest where they enjoyed time on the beach and took selfies with the island’s famous quokkas.

Osaka putting in hard yards in Brisbane

Naomi Osaka has spent her first Christmas as a mother sweating it out on Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane as her tennis return nears.

The former world No.1 will make her WTA comeback at the Brisbane International, which is making a return of its own four years after it was last contested by men and women.

She has hit the ground running in Brisbane ahead of a tournament that begins on Sunday and is seen as crucial preparation for the Australian Open next month.

The 26-year-old practised for the first time on Christmas Day and is set to hit the court again in humid conditions on Wednesday morning.

A two-time Australian and US Open champion, Osaka was a surprise and mysterious scratching from last year’s Melbourne Park major before later revealing she was pregnant.

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Naomi Osaka plays a backhand

(Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

The Japanese superstar and her American rapper boyfriend Cordae welcomed daughter Shai into the world in Los Angeles in July.

Osaka has only played one game, let alone a match, since the 2021 US Open in New York.

She was leading Daria Gavrilova 1-0 at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in September, 2021, before the Australian tore an ACL.

Osaka then forfeited her second-round match before taking time out to have her first child.

Rafael Nadal is also set to return from injury in Brisbane in a field so stacked Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini and US Open champion Dominic Thiem will have to qualify to feature in it.

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Thiem made the Australian Open final in 2020 and Berrettini was a semi-finalist two years later. 

Both are currently sitting outside the top-60 cut off that were afforded automatic entry into the season-opening event.

Former world No.8 Diego Schwartzman and Australian quintet Aleksandar Vukic, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Christopher O’Connell, Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler are also listed in qualifying, which will be contested on Friday and Saturday. 

Not all of those five will have to win their way through though with two Australians set to be awarded tournament wildcards on Wednesday.

Australian trio Alexei Popyrin (world No.40), Max Purcell (45) and Jordan Thompson (55) will fly the flag in Brisbane while Holger Rune (8) is the highest-ranked male in the field.

American Ben Shelton and three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray (42) will add further punch.

Reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, along with Elena Rybakina, Jelena Ostapenko, Victoria Azarenka, Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens complete a stacked women’s draw.

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