Novak Djokovic returns the shot from Tommy Robredo on day four of the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament at Linder Family Tennis Center. Photo by Mark Zerof, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.
NEW YORK - Novak Djokovic has had so-so results in the run-up to the U.S. Open, but the world number one is not concerned. In fact, he is riding high as a newly-wed and a soon-to-be father.
The 27-year-old Serb tied the knot with his childhood sweetheart Jelena Ristic four days after winning the Wimbledon trophy last month and with fatherhood looming he knows his life will be forever changed.
"Without a doubt, life changes. You know, priorities change," Djokovic told reporters on Saturday ahead of Monday's start of the U.S. Open, the last grand slam of the season.
"My priorities, my family, my wife, my future kid. You know, tennis is not definitely not number one anymore."
That is not to say the seven-times grand slam winner is taking his tennis lightly. The proud champion, who thrives on the hard court, aims to make the most of the prime years ahead of him.
"I'm feeling better and better as the days go by. Obviously I want to peak with my form in the U.S. Open," said Djokovic, who has reached the U.S. final four years in a row, claiming the title in 2011.
"I have high expectations for myself. Especially at this stage of my career where I feel like now is the time that I'm at my peak physical strength," he said. "I want to use this time of my career as much as I can to win as many matches as possible."
The hard court maestro, an Australian Open winner four times on the surface, has understandably not been his usually laser-focused self following a five-set triumph over Roger Federer at Wimbledon and then leaving bachelorhood behind.
"I wanted to do better in Canada and Cincinnati. Unfortunately I wasn't even close to my best. But a lot of things happened in the last two months, and it was a very emotional period. I just felt a little bit flat on the court.
"But it's all normal. It's something that I'm experiencing for the first time, right?" added Djokovic, who said he is soliciting advice from all corners about his life change.
"Obviously I talk with people who are around me who have children...how they dealt with that, how that has affected their careers, their mindset, their overall life."
Djokovic is eager but not anxious about the days ahead.
"I with no doubt have only positive and joyful feelings approaching fatherhood, and hopefully it's going to happen in less than two months," he revealed.
"Then I'm going to enjoy it and try to take as much energy as I can, positive energy to kind of transfer that to the tennis court.
Federer, seeded second behind Djokovic for the Open, said he has chatted with the Serb about family life - an issue in which Federer is an expert after his wife Mirka gave birth in May to their second set of twins, who all travel together on the tennis road.
"I have spoken to him a little bit in the past," said the 33-year-old Swiss. "It's normal when you're entering the whole family thing...all you talk about is babies and how to prepare for it mentally. I think it's a very exciting time.
"I think he must be quite excited about what's going to happen soon. And with the wedding and everything, I'm sure he's going through a great spell at the moment with winning Wimbledon, top of it, so things are great for him.
"But I think he's got to figure it out himself really," added Federer. "But the good thing, he sees with me with four, so with one it should be a piece of cake."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Gene Cherry)