Djokovic includes Olympics among 2012 priorities

After taking three of the four majors and gaining the No. 1

ranking last season, Novak Djokovic is going for prizes beyond

Grand Slams in 2012.

An Olympic gold medal, he thinks, would go nicely in his

collection.

”It’s one of the biggest priorities this year, Olympic Games,”

Djokovic told a news conference Saturday, only days before he

starts the defense of his Australian Open title with a first-round

match against Paolo Lorenzi.

”I had that privilege and honor to represent my country in 2008

Beijing Olympics. It was a remarkable experience, like no

other.”

He won the Olympic bronze medal in 2008, when then No. 1-ranked

Rafael Nadal won the gold. Roger Federer also has an Olympic gold

medal from Beijing, although his is in doubles.

The London Olympics gold medal has extra emphasis for tennis

players, given the tournament will be played at the spiritual home

of the sport in Wimbledon.

”Tennis is just one of so many sports that is present in the

Olympic Games, which is the most prestigious, the most valuable,

the most well-known sporting event in the history of sport. That

says enough,” he said.

”I’m very happy to be representing my country again and going

back to the Wimbledon grass where I played in 2011, achieved one of

my biggest goals. So I hope that I can play well, perform well and

bring a medal to Serbia.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s taking his eye off the ball at

the tennis majors – he’s not discounting his chances of going one

better and winning all four of them this season.

”Everything is possible,” said Djokovic, who wore a tailored

suit jacket to the news conference and got straight to

business.

”Obviously 2011 has been the best year so far in my career.

It’s going to be very difficult to repeat what I have done.

”But, look, I’ve done it once. Why not twice? Why not stay

optimistic and positive about the whole season? Obviously I’m not

thinking too far away from Australia – my focus is directed to this

tournament. I want to start off the year well.”

Djokovic had a 10-1 win-loss record against Nadal and Federer in

2011. He beat Nadal in six finals and his only loss at a major was

to Federer in the French Open semifinals.

He started the year with a 41-match winning streak that ended

with that loss in Paris, but bounced back to win the Wimbledon and

U.S. Open titles.

He faded at the end of the season when nagging injuries started

bothering him, and that’s when Federer swooped.

The 16-time Grand Slam winner finished off 2011 on a roll,

capping it with his sixth title at the season-ending championship

in London.

And although he didn’t win a major last season – ending eight

consecutive years of at least one success in the Grand Slam arena –

Federer is showing signs that he’s still a serious contender at age

30.

”He finished off the season best from all the other players,”

Djokovic said. ”He had over 15 wins in a row.

”But it’s a whole new year. It’s a whole new season. We’re

starting to play outdoors. We’ll see if everybody can keep

up.”

Federer hurt his back and had to withdraw during a tournament at

Doha earlier this month, something he’d only had to do once before

in his professional career.

He held some concern about whether he’d be fit in time for the

Australian Open, where he won his last major in 2010. On Saturday,

he said he’d be OK to continue his streak of playing in every Grand

Slam tournament this century.

No. 3-ranked Federer opens his tournament against Russian

qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev at Rod Laver Arena on Monday

night.

”Today was my first practice where I could play again at a 100

percent,” he said. ”Yesterday I felt good, too. No pain. But at

least, you know, I was out there playing full on, but still just a

little worried or scared, let’s put it that way.

”Today all that’s gone, so I feel like I’m back to

normal.”

Federer is also targeting an Olympic gold medal, but it won’t be

in mixed doubles despite the pressure from the Swiss public for a

Federer-Martina Hingis team in London.

Federer said the idea of winning another medal for Switzerland

was appealing, but it was Hingis – winner of five singles, nine

doubles and one mixed doubles title at Grand Slams – who told him

in a phone call last month that it wouldn’t work. She retired, for

the second time, after the 2007 season.

”She was the one to basically also tell me I should focus on

winning singles and defending my doubles,” he said. ”She’s very

happy staying in retirement. She thinks it’s the only right thing

for me to do.

”She basically took the decision for me, which was very nice of

her. We were very happy I think at the end of the phone call and

didn’t have any hard feelings. ”