Novak Djokovic admits he’s had a tough time but is sure he can get back to the top

Novak Djokovic only has his eyes set on getting back to the very top of the game.
Updated 02 May 2018
0

Novak Djokovic admits he’s had a tough time but is sure he can get back to the top

  • Super Serb has been struggling since elbow injury ended his 2017 season last July.
  • Is without a title for nearly a year, but is sure he can deal an ace to his faulty form.

Novak Djokovic admitted his confidence had been rocked by a string of poor results after a premature return from elbow surgery but the former world No. 1 vowed to work hard to get back to winning ways.
Having exchanged a few shots with a young prospect after an intense training session in searing heat at his own tennis complex in central Belgrade, the 30-year old Serb conceded that the last 18 months have been testing.
“I have always believed in myself and that’s why I was able to make all my childhood dreams come true, but right now my confidence is not at the highest level,” he said.
“That’s not surprising given the lack of results and all I can do is knuckle down to hard work to restore it. A few good matches and one good tournament and it will come back.”
Djokovic’s slump began after he won his maiden French Open title in June 2016 to complete a career Grand Slam and amass 12 major titles.
A string of below-par performances were followed by Djokovic having to retire against Czech Tomas Berdych in last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals with an elbow injury which kept him sidelined until January’s Australian Open.
After a last-16 defeat by South Korean unknown Hyeon Chung in Melbourne, Djokovic had another spell on the sidelines following elbow surgery and said he had come back too early because he was hungry to play again.

EARLY EXITS

Since returning he has suffered early exits in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Miami and Indian Wells.
“That was my decision because I missed playing tennis so much but I was not ready and it backfired,” he said.
“After everything I have been through in the past year or so, I have had to lower my expectations but my motivation and my ambitions remain unchanged.
“After this year’s Australian Open I wasn’t sure whether I’d have elbow surgery or not. I was reluctant but then I realized it was the best long-term solution.
“The recent results have not been what we are used to but coming back is a process and all I can do now is knuckle down to some hard work.
“I have had some similar situations in the past but not one quite as challenging as this, so I have to accept it as part of a learning process.”
Judging by the ferocity of his shots in training and the vehement exchange of instructions with his coaching staff, Djokovic, currently the world No. 12, is determined to break back into the top echelon of the men’s game.
Mobbed by primary school children as he posed with them for photos after the claycourt practice session, Djokovic cut a relaxed and confident figure ahead of upcoming tournaments.
He also rubbished suggestions made by several local nutritionists, who were quoted by Belgrade media in recent weeks, that his meat-free diet was hampering his fitness.
“I don’t want to elaborate because people have been twisting facts in the past two years and all I’ll say is that I reckon I know what’s best for me as an athlete and a person,” he said.
“It doesn’t affect me what people say, but it does affect those who are close to me.”


Giorgio Chiellini confident Juventus can buck recent trend of Supercoppa defeats

Though upbeat, Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini admitted that it will be a “difficult match.” (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 16 January 2019
0

Giorgio Chiellini confident Juventus can buck recent trend of Supercoppa defeats

  • Skipper also happy the match is being played in Jeddah, and sees it as a ‘step forward’ for Saudi Arabia
  • AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso sidesteps questions about Gonzalo Higuain’s rumored move to English Premier League

JEDDAH: Juventus have been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they have lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European cup finals. It’s a trend, however, that captain Giorgio Chiellini believes can be halted on January 16 when his side takes on AC Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana final at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“We want to change that trend that has seen us lose the last two Supercoppa finals, and this is the ideal opportunity,” said the defender. “We have changed a great deal in two years, but we’ve got to prove ourselves with actions rather than words because we let a few too many of these trophies slip through our fingers and it’s a shame.
“It’s going to be a difficult match but the objective is to start 2019 lifting a trophy above our heads.”
Chiellini also defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.
“I am happy this game is being played here and can be seen as a further reason for progress in this country, and I see it as a step forward and not a problem,” he said. “We (soccer players) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.
“We have been given a warm welcome and I hope tomorrow can be remembered by the Saudi people as a wonderful celebration. We have to provide a spectacle of Italian football and know that all fans will be happy with our performances.”
As the rival teams faced the media on the eve of the match, both were confident about their chances of lifting the first silverware of the Italian soccer season. This year marks the 31st Supercoppa, a match contested by the previous season’s Serie A domestic league champions and the winners of the Coppa Italia. When a single team wins both honors, as was the case last season, they take on the Coppa Italia runners-up.
This year’s game, the tickets for which reportedly sold out in two days, might also mark a farewell to Italian football for striker Gonzalo Higuain, who is currently on loan to AC Milan from Juventus but is widely rumored to be on the verge of a move to Chelsea in the English Premier League. If the Argentine international is indeed on his way out, he will be hoping to end his stay with the Rossoneri with some silverware while also, perhaps, sticking it to his parent club.

Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso (center) said Higuain has never told him he wants to leave the club. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)

Asked about the status of any transfer talks, AC Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso was careful to avoid feeding the rumor mill.
“At this moment, I have to repeat the same words: there are many rumors but Higuain is training well and working with everyone just fine and is at our disposal,” he said. “I base my decisions on how players train during the week and how they work with the staff and their teammates. We’ll see tomorrow whether he plays or not.
“I want to reiterate that Higuain has never told me he wants to leave. I am waiting for that. He has to decide what to do, how to resolve this issue, but right now he is training with great professionalism. We’ll see.”
Gattuso then nipped this line of questioning in the bud by adding: “I want to be honest; I don’t even want to talk about Higuain as we’re here for the Supercoppa.”
Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri, meanwhile, is well aware that while they are undefeated in Serie A this season after 19 games, with 17 wins and two draws, league form counts for little in a cup final, as evidenced by their recent results in such games. As such, he is keen to avoid any complacency among his players.
“One of the great strengths of this team is our respect for the opposition, otherwise you don’t win as many games as we have,” he said. “There are 22 points separating our teams in Serie A but those don’t matter here. If we do not have great humility and respect for Milan tomorrow, then it’s unlikely we will win the game.”
The prematch press conference inevitably included questions about Cristiano Ronaldo. Since his 112 million euro ($128 million) move to Juventus from Real Madrid last summer, the Portuguese star has netted 15 goals in 25 appearances. On Wednesday, the five-time winner of the Ballon d'Or — an award presented each year by France Football magazine to the player judged to be the best in the world — will aim to lift his maiden trophy with his new club, after having bagged 15 titles during his nine years with the Spanish giants.
While Ronaldo did not appear at the press conference, Allegri was asked whether the striker had arrived in Italy with a stronger and hungrier desire to win.
“He would have to win something first to prove that,” the coach said. “Cristiano is accustomed to winning; he has won four of the past five Champions Leagues and many more titles. Ronaldo is the best player in the world and clearly an added bonus for us. Our situation has certainly improved with his presence.”
Wednesday night’s match is sure to be hotly contested, as Juventus and AC Milan currently share the record for Supercoppa titles, with seven each. While Juventus are making their seventh successive Supercoppa appearance, it is perhaps AC Milan who can lay claim to bragging rights, given that the last time these two teams met in the Supercoppa, in 2016, the Rossoneri ended up on top following a penalty shoot-out after the game ended in a 1-1 draw after extra time. With all the talking officially done, all that remains is a historic night of top quality soccer at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium.