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Djokovic Says He’s Ready to Challenge at Every Event

Novak Djokovic with the Australian Open trophy
Novak Djokovic of Serbia poses with the trophy after winning the men's singles final against Andy Murray of Britain at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Photographer: Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Novak Djokovic said he may be ready to challenge the Grand Slam supremacy of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal after claiming his second Australian Open title.

The Serb beat Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 last night in the first Grand Slam tennis final without Federer or world No. 1 Nadal since Djokovic’s 2008 victory over France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Melbourne Park.

“I don’t want to stop here,” Djokovic, 23, told reporters. “I want to keep my body healthy, fit, and ready for some more challenges to come. I feel that I have a good game for all the surfaces. I have proven that in the past.”

Djokovic has now ousted Grand Slam record holder Federer in consecutive major semifinals. After reaching September’s U.S. Open final by saving two match points to beat the Swiss, he went on to lead Serbia to its first Davis Cup title last month.

Arriving in Australia after what he said was a two-week offseason, Djokovic tuned up by playing the Hopman Cup mixed team event in Perth. At Melbourne Park, he dropped just one set en route to the championship.

Djokovic moved off the list of one-time men’s Grand Slam champions on his 12th attempt. Only Russia’s Marat Safin, with 14 attempts, made more appearances between his first and second titles at tennis’s four biggest events.

Apart from Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 U.S. Open, Djokovic is the only player to break the Federer-Nadal dominance of the majors since the 2005 French Open. He joined Federer, Nadal and Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt as the only active men’s players to have won multiple majors.

‘New Players’

“Still Rafa and Roger are the two best players in the world, no question about that,” Djokovic said. “You can’t compare my success to their success. They’re the two most dominant players in the game for a while. It’s nice to see that there are some new players in the later stages of Grand Slams fighting for a title. That’s all I can say.”

While television commentators including four-time major champion Jim Courier have said that the absence of Federer, 29, and Nadal, 24, from the Melbourne final may signal a shift at the top of the men’s game, Federer said it’s too early to tell.

“They say that very quickly,” he said after his straight-set defeat to Djokovic in the semifinals. “Let’s talk in six months again.”

Nadal, hampered by a leg injury, went out in the quarterfinals to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, ending his bid to win four major titles in a row. Ferrer then lost to Murray.

Major Losses

Last night’s defeat left Murray, who came up through the junior ranks with Djokovic and is a week older than the Serb, still seeking his first Grand Slam title.

The loss was Murray’s third in a major final and he failed to win a set in all three. He was beaten by Federer last year in Melbourne, and also at the 2008 U.S. Open.

“I’m going to need to improve,” Murray said. “Obviously I lost in straight sets, so I’m going to need to get better.”

Murray cried after last year’s loss to Federer. Twelve months on, he said he’s getting better at handling defeat on the sport’s biggest stages as he tries to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam title since Fred Perry in 1936.

Still, his defeat to Djokovic at Rod Laver Arena last night cast doubt on his ability to break that drought, according to U.K. bookmaker Ladbrokes Plc, which has Murray at odds of 7-4 never to win a major tournament.

Murray’s “capitulation raises more question marks around his Grand Slam final pedigree,” Ladbrokes spokesman David Williams said.

Djokovic, meantime, said he’s willing and able to mount a sustained challenge for the top titles. While the hard court majors in Australia and the U.S. remain his favorites, he says he can compete on clay in France and on the grass at Wimbledon.

“I feel a better player now than I was three years ago, because I think that physically I’m stronger, I’m faster, mentally I’m more motivated on the court,” Djokovic said. “It’s the best way that I could ask for to start a season.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes at Melbourne Park at dbaynes@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser in London at celser@bloomberg.net

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