An “ambitious” Carlos Alcaraz says the chance to dethrone Australian Open king Novak Djokovic is providing extra motivation as he prepares for the year’s first grand slam.
Missing last year’s Australian Open with a leg injury, the Spanish world No.2 arrives at Melbourne Park as the biggest threat to top dog Djokovic collecting an 11th Australian Open title.
The 20-year-old last year denied Djokovic the Wimbledon crown, winning a blockbuster five-set final to regain the world No.1 ranking from the super Serb.
But beating Djokovic in a tournament he has practically owned since 2008 is a massive challenge that Alacaraz is welcoming.
“It’s an extra motivation for me,” said the youngster, who also won the US Open in 2022.
“I’m an ambitious guy and I always want to play against the best players in the world to see what is my level.
“Obviously it’s a good test, playing against him in the places or in the tournament that he’s almost unbeaten.
“I’m looking to hopefully playing a final against him – it would be great obviously but yes, knowing those stats, it’s an extra motivation, for sure.”
Opening his campaign on Monday against French veteran Richard Gasquet, Alcaraz is looking to improve on his previous best performance in Melbourne which was a third-round showing in 2022.
He has travelled to Australia without coach Juan Carlos Ferrero and decided not to play any lead-in tournaments, opting instead to play two exhibition matches at Rod Laver Arena.
After a mammoth 2023 he said he felt comfortable with his preparation.
“We end the season so late I prefer to have a holiday, have my days to recover my body, my mind as well,” he said.
“We discussed with my team, as well, that we need almost four, five weeks of pre-season to prepare well this season … we have no time if I wanted to play a tournament before the Australian Open.
“I think I’m a guy who doesn’t need so much competition before a big tournament.
“Obviously it always helps but I think I’m prepared to do good things here in the grand slam.”
Djokovic’s lead-in was hampered by a wrist injury but the 36-year-old said he had made a full recovery and was ready for his first-round match against Dino Prizmic on Sunday night.
“My wrist is good. I had time from the last match against (Alex) de Minaur in the United Cup to my first match here to recover,” he said.
“I’ve been training well and practice sessions have been pain-free so far so it’s all looking good.
“I can’t predict whether it’s going to come back – once I start playing more matches, stress levels go higher. I don’t know. We have to find out.”