Patience the key word for Djokovic’s younger challengers


MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic will meet either Alexander Zverev or Dominic Thiem in his bid for a record-extending eighth Australian Open title and on Thursday he advised his younger challengers to be patient in their pursuit of glory.

Djokovic once again beat great rival Roger Federer at a Grand Slam on Thursday, winning 7-6(1) 6-4 6-3 to book his spot in Sunday’s final.

It will be an opportunity for the younger men to end the Grand Slam hegemony of Djokovic, Federer and Rafa Nadal – the so-called ‘Big Three’ – who have shared the last 12 majors between them.

“When you are young you want everything right away. There’s no waiting,” said Djokovic, who has not been beaten by Federer at a slam since Wimbledon 2012.

“Of course you dream of becoming the world’s top player. Dominic Thiem and Alex Zverev are some of the best young players that play this game and definitely have high goals and ambitions. Definitely they have the potential to be there.

“One thing that I was probably lacking a little bit when I was younger was patience and just trusting the process a little bit more. At times I was rushing a little bit too much and getting frustrated about details and small things in life.”

While Zverev, 22, will be aiming to reach his maiden Grand Slam final on Friday, the 26-year-old Thiem has lost the last two Roland Garros finals to Nadal.

“It’s better obviously coming into the Grand Slam finals to have some experience behind you,” Djokovic said, adding it was good for the sport to have new champions.

“At the same time if you don’t have that experience maybe then you don’t have the expectations or you don’t have the pressure of being in the finals that you need to win.

“The younger players now coming up and challenging us oldies to get to the Grand Slam finals. It’s happening already. You’re going to have Dominic or Sascha (Zverev) in the finals. It’s inevitable it’s going to happen more frequently in the future.”

Djokovic’s semi-final opponent, Federer, had suffered a groin problem in the quarter-final win against Tennys Sandgren and looked slightly hampered in his movements on the Rod Laver Arena.

The 38-year-old Swiss also left the court to have some medical attention after the opening set.

“I did have retirements throughout my career. I know how it feels when you’re hurt on the court,” Djokovic said. “I know the amount of thoughts that go through your mind whether you should continue or not, whether it’s going to get worse.

“Only the player knows at that moment what you go through. Obviously it’s really hard to compare injuries, because everyone goes through their injury individually.

“But it’s (an) amazing fact that he has never retired…, not a single match, throughout his career. Huge respect for that.”

Federer was contesting the 1513th match of his professional career.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Pritha Sarkar