Novak Djokovic is the leading favourite at this year’s Australian Open. The Serbian is not shying away from the pressure of standing at the doorstep of history, either.

If Djokovic claims his 10th title at Melbourne Park, he will tie Rafael Nadal for the most men’s Grand Slam singles titles in history with 22. Is that a motivating factor?

“Of course, it is. I mean, that’s why I keep on playing professional tennis, competition tennis, because I want to be the best, I want to win the biggest tournaments in the world. There is no secret about it,” Djokovic said. “It doesn’t get bigger than this. You have four Slams that historically have been the biggest events in our sport. It’s also one of the biggest reasons why I was really looking forward to come back to Australia: because of my record here. I really love playing in Rod Laver Arena, particularly night sessions. I’ve had plenty of success that hopefully can continue this year.”

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Djokovic is the fourth seed, but he has been playing as well as anyone on Tour over the past several months. He captured titles in Tel-Aviv and Astana last October before claiming his sixth Nitto ATP Finals crown in Turin.

“I’m in a very good shape. I ended the year in the best possible way, and continued that form in Adelaide. I like the way I played there. I beat some really good players, especially in the last few matches of the tournament,” Djokovic said of winning the ATP 250 at the start of the season. “I like my chances. I always like my chances. I train as hard as really anybody out there. There’s a lot of youngsters now that are very hungry, that want to win. They want to take a scalp off you on the big stadium. I know that.

“Experience of being in these kind of particular circumstances helps I think to have the right approach and do things in a proper way because I know when I’m healthy and playing my best, on this court I have chances really against anybody.”

The only scare for Djokovic came in the semi-finals of the Adelaide International 1, where he hurt his hamstring during his victory against Daniil Medvedev. The Serbian recovered to defeat Sebastian Korda in a three-set final, in which he saved a championship point.

“I’ve been struggling with that a bit, to be honest, the past seven days. But it’s hopefully not the major concern. So far I’ve been able to train, compete and play points, practice sets. So that’s a positive sign,” Djokovic said of his hamstring. “Obviously, I’m being a bit more cautious. I’m not going full out on the training sessions, conserving the energy for next week. Hopefully it won’t cause an issue for me then.”

Although Djokovic will have all eyes on him in Melbourne as the tournament favourite, he is also keeping the opportunity to again etch his name in the history books in perspective.

“At this stage of my career, of course the biggest ones count the most, the biggest events, and trying to stay healthy and mentally fresh and joyful on the court,” Djokovic said. “It’s important, because at the end of the day it’s a good balance between setting up the goals and trying to achieve those goals and being professional about it, but also the other side is why are you playing tennis. I choose to play, I really love playing tennis. It brings me wonderful emotions. Sometimes not.

“It’s a great way for me to learn more about myself, to grow in life as a personality. Hopefully I’ll also bring good emotions to people that watch me play live on the court or on TV. Knowing all these things, I try to balance things out because it is a professional mission that I have, but at the same time it’s also a personal mission. I try to enjoy every single moment.”

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