Novak Djokovic opens his 2013 Grand Slam campaign today - and the world No 1 accepts he needs to be at his best from the outset.
Djokovic is attempting to make history as the first man in the Open era to win three successive Australian Open titles but was handed a tricky first hurdle to negotiate in the form of experienced Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Mathieu, who turned 31 on Saturday, has twice reached the fourth round in Melbourne and will provide a stiff early test for the Serbian. Djokovic said: “The draw is something you cannot affect. It’s not in your hands so you just try to take it one match at a time, focus on your next opponent, your next challenge.
“Maybe Mathieu is ranked lower at the moment (at 60 in the world) but he was a top-20 player. He knows how it feels to play on a big stage. There is no underestimating him, that’s for sure. I’m going to try to focus from the start.”
Djokovic is the favourite to claim the trophy once again and, with Rafael Nadal absent as he continues to battle back from a knee injury, his only realistic challengers appear to be Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
And while the 25-year-old understands the reasoning behind that argument he believes there are several other players capable of vying for the major prizes. He added: “It’s probably expected that the three of us, and Nadal of course, would still be the main candidates to win all the major titles.
“But I wouldn’t underestimate (Juan Martin) Del Potro, (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga, (David) Ferrer, (Tomas) Berdych or anyone who is in the top 10. And there are young players coming up like (Bernard) Tomic, (Grigor) Dimitrov and (Milos) Raonic.
“I don’t think it’s nice for me to predict that us three will be champions of all the Grand Slams this year.”