November 23, 2023

Open Court


MELBOURNE, Australia – Was it really 15 years ago, almost to the day, that Novak Djokovic won his first Australian Open?

It was (and it was my first AO working as a journalist as well).

On Sunday, he goes for his 10th title.

Back in those days, I wasn’t all over the shutterbugging as I am now. But I still have a few from that year – notably of Djokovic and some of his family members.

From what Djokovic has said, this year marks the first time his parents have been back in Australia since that first championship in 2008.

His brother Marko also is here, reportedly planning to travel with him in 2023.

The entire family was here in 2008.

Here is Djokovic, all of 20 (and looking even younger than that) on the practice court early in the event.

And here’s youngest brother Djordje, 12 1/2 at the time, helping out on the practice court.

Young Djordje, helping on court with big brother.

As it happens, middle brother Marko (16 then; his peak ranking as a junior came a year later at No. 291) got a wild card into the main draw of the boys’ singles.

Here he is in a 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 first-round loss to Aussie Clifford Marsland.

Marko Djokovic, in the junior event.

Mama Dijana was there cheering him on during that match.

But she was as tight as a drum; there were a few smoke breaks.

Dijana Djokovic, watching younger son Marko playing in the juniors, basically can’t take it and runs out for a smoke.

Fast forward to the final, after the world No. 3 had a ludicrously brilliant run (including a straight-sets dismantling of No. 1 seed Roger Federer in the semis, while finals opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did the same to Rafael Nadal. Funny, no one was talking about “changing of the guard” back then!).

This is a … TOUGH draw.

Tsonga, then 22 and ranked No. 38, had an even tougher one.

Djokovic avoided a fifth set by taking that tiebreak, and the title.

And now, 15 years later, he’s trying to do it for the 10th time.

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