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Ahead of Australian Open: ‘Stratospheric’ Djokovic flags warning to rivals

Novak Djokovic will begin the defence of his Australian Open title from January 18 with the ominous warning to flagging rivals that he is in the form of his life.

Speaking after his destruction of Rafael Nadal at the Qatar Open on Saturday the world number one said he ‘expected’ to play at the
same level at this year’s first Grand Slam.

“I’m hoping that I can actually peak and play as well as I did today in Melbourne,” Djokovic told reporters.

He beat a hapless Nadal 6-1, 6-2 with a level of tennis rarely seen, even by his 14-times Grand Slam opponent, who described Djokovic’s game as ‘perfect’ and ‘stratospheric’.

“I know nobody playing tennis like this ever,” said Nadal, which suggested that not even Roger Federer, in his prime, could have matched the Serb.

Among Djokovic’s achievements in the week-long Doha warm-up was the fact that he did not drop a set in five matches, secured a 60th career title and edged ahead of Nadal in their personal rivalry, 24 matches to 23.

But now the world number one turns his attention to Melbourne and the Australian Open, the season’s opening Grand Slam. “My thoughts are only directed to Melbourne and what I need to do there,” he said. “This week that I have had before the Australian Open starts will also be very useful for me because I have played a lot, trained very hard, played a great five matches here.”

For Nadal, who flew to Australia on Saturday night straight after his defeat, the Grand Slam cannot come quickly enough. However, he remains optimistic.

“The real thing is I had a positive week,” said Nadal. “I am playing well, and I’m going to keep working hard to try to be ready for Australia.