ATP Tour

'Stratospheric' Djokovic in best form of life

Novak Djokovic (AP)
Novak Djokovic (AP)

Doha - 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 -- with both players saying afterwards that the Serb played perfect tennis -- 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.

If he does then Australia is in for a treat, even if it is bad news for his competitors.

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.

"The week that I have before the Australian Open starts will actually be very useful also for me because I have played a lot, trained very hard, played a great five matches here."

Last year he beat Britain's Andy Murray in four sets, to secure his fifth Australian Open.

His form of 2015, where he won three of the four Grand Slams, has led to predictions that he could claim all four this year, a feat not achieved since Rod Laver in 1969.

If there is one doubt he takes from Doha though is that he has a niggling arm injury, which he admits he has received treatment for, but downplayed its importance on Saturday.

"I don't think it's too serious," said Djokovic.

"I don't see it as a hindrance, possible hindrance for (the) Australian Open. It appears time to time, but it's nothing that really is major that I will be concerned about."

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

He spent all week in Doha rebuilding his confidence after a poor 2015, only for it to be bruised once again by Djokovic.

Despite that, he maintains he can do well in Melbourne, where he has won once, in 2009, beating Federer in the final.

"The real thing is I had a positive week," said Nadal.

"I am playing well, and I'm gonna keep working hard to try to be ready for Australia. And I think I will be. I am motivated for it.

"And Australia is a different story, different conditions."

Last year, Nadal's "annus horriblis", saw the Spaniard limp to the quarter-finals before being beaten by the Czech Tomas Berdych.

But he maintained on Saturday that he is in better form than in 2015 and maintained that he could do better this year.

"Let's see in Australia and let's see later during the whole season," he said.

"I'm going to fight and I feel ready to fight, and I feel ready and excited about this fight and I hope to be closer."

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