Mind it: Djokovic starts playing games

It’s been a tough situation for him to face this media pressure and being a British player.

Written by Reuters | Melbourne | Published: January 30, 2011 11:36 pm

Novak Djokovic took a leaf out of Roger Federer’s book by insisting the pressure was all on Andy Murray when the Serb faces the British Grand Slam hope in Sunday’s Australian Open final. The 2008 Melbourne champion paid tribute to Murray for coping with the huge expectations in his bid to become Britain’s first men’s singles grand slam champion in 75 years.

“It’s been a tough situation for him to face this media pressure and being a British player,” world No. 3 Djokovic told reporters on Saturday. Before beating Murray in last year’s final,Federer memorably teased the Scot by stating the poor guy has been trying to win Britain’s first major in 150,000 years.

Fifth seed Murray,also beaten by Federer in the 2008 US Open final,can become Britain’s first male Grand Slam winner since Fred Perry in 1936 if he blocks out the hysteria and beats Djokovic on Sunday. “You know everybody expects him to win Wimbledon and be the best player in the world because he comes from a country of tennis,you know,a great history,” Djokovic added.

“Of course,Wimbledon,we all know it’s the most prestigious tournament in our sport and he faced all of that (pressure) in his career. He managed to become one of the best players in the world. So you got to give him credit for that,” added Djokovic,smile failing to mask the underlying psychological tactics.

Djokovic upset Federer 7-6,7-5,6-4 in the semi-finals to advance to his fourth grand slam final,after dumping the Swiss master out of last year’s US Open at the same stage.

Continuing the mental jousting,Djokovic insisted he held an edge going into Sunday’s final having already made his major breakthrough,on Rod Laver Arena three years ago. “We have both played a couple of Grand Slam finals,” Djokovic said. “We both know how difficult it is to make that final step and win a title,especially if you have (Rafa) Nadal or Federer across the net. In 2008,I had (Frenchman Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga. He had played a great tournament but still it was both of us trying to fight for a first title.

“I was a 20-year-old kid who didn’t really feel that much pressure and expectation off court and was just trying to play my best tennis. That’s probably why I played so well. I’m more experienced now. Definitely winning a grand slam title here,having that for tomorrow’s final,it’s maybe a little bit of a mental advantage.”

Djokovic bit his lip when asked about the first time he played Murray as children when the young Briton beat him 6-1,6-0. “I wanted to forget it as soon as possible definitely,” laughed Djokovic. “It was the first time we met. We were 11 or 12 years old. It’s been a fun couple of weeks (in Melbourne). We reconnected a little bit with the friendship in the last 12 months. But we have to forget about all that when we step on the court. It’s all business.” Alastair Himmer

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