Shortly after 35-year-old Novak Djokovic despatched one other significantly youthful participant to win a twenty second Grand Slam title, his coach Goran Ivanisevic was requested how lengthy the brand new Australian Open champion might keep on the high degree.
The response in all probability despatched a chill by the remainder of the ATP Tour.
“Undoubtedly two, three extra years,” mentioned Ivanisevic, who has helped Djokovic win seven of his main titles.
“His degree is unbelievable. He’s from outer area. His mind is working completely different.”
Djokovic, who turns 36 in Could, confirmed all sides of his greatness on the best way to beating 24-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s Melbourne remaining.
The Serb has received 5 of the previous seven Grand Slams he has performed in, though this victory got here in a match the place Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz – the world primary earlier than the occasion and new chief of the following technology – was dominated out by damage.
BBC Sport analyses why Djokovic stays so tough for the youthful gamers to topple.
Just about each youthful opponent talks earlier than a match about treating Djokovic like another opponent – enjoying the person and never the identify.
However what number of actually consider it and do not get overawed?
Greece’s Tsitsipas was the final of 4 gamers no less than a decade youthful than Djokovic to be crushed by him in Melbourne.
Prior to now 4 years Djokovic has misplaced solely 5 of the 45 matches he has performed in opposition to opponents below the age of 23.
Djokovic has received six of his seven Grand Slam finals in that interval in opposition to gamers born within the Nineties, with Russia’s Daniil Medvedev touchdown the youthful technology’s solely success within the 2021 US Open.
Tsitsipas insists Djokovic’s stranglehold on the youthful gamers is not a “curse”.
“I do not see this as one thing annoying. This is superb for the game, to have opponents like him, to have champions like him,” mentioned Tsitsipas, who has misplaced his previous 10 conferences with Djokovic.
Whether or not Tsitsipas sincerely thinks that could be a completely different matter. If he does, it looks like he’s an exception.
It has been telling that Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev and American Tommy Paul – the gamers whom Djokovic made gentle work of within the Australian Open quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively – mentioned the dread which gamers really feel when seeing his identify of their a part of the draw.
Rublev, 25, laughed when he mentioned after his last-16 win that he wished Djokovic was within the reverse aspect – but it surely was no laughing matter as he turned more and more despondent on the best way to a straight-set beating.
“Loads of gamers have lots of respect for his sport,” mentioned 25-year-old Paul, who was additionally despatched in three units.
“No-one actually desires to see him on their a part of the draw.”
The on-court mentality
When the going will get robust on court docket, Djokovic will get going.
That’s significantly related within the largest moments of the largest matches and is a key purpose why he has received 22 of the 33 Grand Slam finals he has performed.
Tsitsipas mentioned Djokovic, who saved 23 of 29 break factors throughout the Australian Open, together with two of three within the remaining, is a participant who “pushes you to your limits” on the court docket.
“He is crucial for us that wish to get to his level in the future. Getting our asses kicked is for certain an excellent lesson each single time,” he mentioned.
“He has made me a a lot better participant. He has made my ranges of focus larger and better each single time I get to play him.
“You need to be actually concerned and you must be devoted to the sport while you play in opposition to him.”
The approach and ways
Everybody has a sport plan going right into a match in opposition to Djokovic. Executing in opposition to somebody of his expertise is one other story.
As Paul put it after the semi-final, Djokovic could make them “play so dangerous”.
The American supplied some perception into his ways and the way Djokovic neutralised these plans.
“I wished to serve and volley some. I did not serve and volley as soon as,” he mentioned.
“After I did make my first serve, I felt like he was returning it to the baseline. I used to be routinely on defence.
“I wished to throw in drop-shots. I did not get a chance to do any of that as a result of he was hitting so deep.
“I wished to vary up tempo with my slice. I missed my first three slices of the match. I used to be like ‘all proper, I’ll begin hitting my backhand, I am not slicing properly’.
“He did not let me do all these issues due to issues that he did so properly.”
Djokovic has lengthy appreciated the necessity to care for his physique to delay his profession and obtain success into his 30s.
He has frequently cited altering to a gluten-free food plan greater than a decade in the past as a recipe for his success.
Whereas he doesn’t think about himself a vegan, Djokovic steers away from consuming meat, fish and different animal-based merchandise.
Taking over yoga and a each day routine of stretches has been key in serving to preserve the extraordinary elasticity which he continues to indicate when chasing down balls on the court docket.
“The best way he is caring for his physique, the best way he method about every thing, the meals, it is superb. It is unbelievable, the extent,” mentioned Ivanisevic.
When Djokovic outlined his causes final yr for not having a vaccination in opposition to coronavirus, he mentioned he wished to be “in tune with my physique as a lot as I presumably can”.
He added he had “at all times been a terrific pupil of wellness, well-being, well being, vitamin”.
With success comes scrutiny and Djokovic usually finds himself on the centre of drama – whether or not it’s of his personal making or not.
Final yr he was unable to defend his Australian Open title after being deported from the nation following a row over his Covid-19 vaccination standing.
Djokovic had additionally been hampered by a hamstring damage at Melbourne Park, which Ivanisevic reckoned would have dominated out “97% of the opposite gamers”.
“If I flip again the time two and a half weeks in the past, I wasn’t actually liking my likelihood with the best way I felt with my leg,” mentioned Djokovic.
“Then it was only a matter of survival of each single match, attempting to take it to the following spherical.”
One other curveball was thrown his manner earlier than Friday’s semi-final in opposition to Paul.
His father Srdjan was pictured exterior Rod Laver Area with supporters of Russian president Vladimir Putin, creating an argument which Djokovic mentioned was “not nice” to take care of.
Nonetheless, he managed to place all these distractions behind him as he levelled Rafael Nadal’s report of males’s majors.
“It required an unlimited psychological power actually to remain current, to remain centered, to take issues daily,” Djokovic mentioned.
Few would guess in opposition to the world primary profitable extra majors than another participant within the historical past of the game, except Tsitsipas, Alcaraz or the remainder of the youthful technology – plus 36-year-old Nadal, set to go for a fifteenth triumph on the French Open in June – can cease him.
“In fact, 35 will not be 25, though I wish to consider it’s. However I nonetheless really feel there’s time forward of me. Let’s examine how far I am going,” mentioned Djokovic.