sport

Novak not feeling the pressure

Novak Djokovic has dismissed talk of added pressure as he bids to make history at the Australian Open.

The Serbian is bidding to become the first man in the Open era to claim three successive titles Down Under and goes into the event as favourite ahead of Andy Murray and Roger Federer.

World number one Djokovic, who starts his campaign against experienced Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, is adamant, however, that the weight of expectation on him this year is no different than normal.

He said: "I feel this is a point where everybody starts from the same line, so I don't really put myself in a position to have more pressure than the others.

"I've been faced with this particular kind of pressure, defending the title in major events, a few times so I know what it feels like, what I need to do.

"I'm trying to keep it very simple, take it day to day, see how far I can go."

Djokovic triumphed in Melbourne last year courtesy of an epic five-set victory over Rafael Nadal - a match which lasted a grand slam final record of five hours and 53 minutes.

The Spaniard is missing this year, though, after coming down with a stomach virus as he battled to shrug off a long-term knee problem.

And Djokovic admits the 11-time grand slam winner will be a big loss.

He said: "It is definitely a loss for the tournament, for tennis, for the sport in general not to have Rafa playing on the court.

"I know him really well. We grew up together in a way. So I know he's a great competitor, someone that never gives up, fights till the last moment. And he loves this sport.

"I'm sure if he felt he was ready enough to play this tournament - best-of-five in the Australian summer can be brutal and difficult to play - then he would come.

"He probably felt he needs more time to recover. I wish him a speedy recovery."

The favourite for the women's crown is Serena Williams, who is currently on a run of 52 wins from 54 matches which has included tournament victories at Wimbledon, the Olympics and US Open.

The American appears in the form of her life but she was reluctant to draw comparisons with previous periods of dominance.

She said: "I can't answer that, I get asked that all the time.

"But I feel like I'm in the moment right now. For this moment I am playing well.

"I really hope I can keep it up and continue to play well."