By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – However Novak Djokovic fares at next week’s ATP World Tour Finals, and most expect him to win a fourth successive title at London’s O2 Arena to cap an amazing year, the world number one will be setting equally high goals for 2016.
The 28-year-old Serb has enjoyed an astonishingly consistent year, winning three of the four grand slams, narrowly missing out on a first French Open, and scooping six of the year’s Masters Series titles.
His 78-5 record this season is comparable to Roger Federer’s 2006 campaign (92-5) and John McEnroe’s in 1984 (82-3) in terms of domination.
The question is how will he back it up next year?
That’s simple, according to Djokovic, who begins at the season-ender with a Sunday afternoon clash with Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who he beat in last year’s semi-finals in London.
“I’m in love with the game and it’s not difficult to prepare myself in the off season and to set new goals,” Djokovic told reporters on Friday after a practice session overseen by coach Boris Becker and the rest of his team.
The first of Djokovic’s 10 grand slam titles came at the 2008 Australian Open and he had to wait three years until his next one — after which the floodgates opened.
Whereas he used to look vulnerable in long matches and occasionally retired hurt in the heat of battle, Djokovic these days looks invincible physically and mentally.
There is no secret, Djokovic insists.
“I’ve been through a process of evolution and I feel like I’ve learned a lot mentally how to handle situations on the biggest stages when I play against my biggest rivals,” Djokovic said. “I’ve found a formula that works.
“I’ve developed and emphasised certain training routines on the court and my fitness routine as well has changed, not drastically, but we’ve found an optimal training system and a programme that works.
“There is not a single thing that I can say is the secret, an elixir or potion, I’ve realised a holistic approach to life and tennis helps me and gives me the best results.”
Djokovic faces a tough group with six-times champion Roger Federer and powerful Czech Tomas Berdych, as well as Nishikori, but even with the round-robin system allowing some margin for error, Djokovic wants perfection.
“Of course it gives you an option to survive the group stage with lost matches but I’m not considering to lose any matches,” he said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis)