The 2017 Australian Open was a painful experience for Novak Djokovic.
The world number two suffered a surprise exit at the hands of Denis Istomin in the second round, raising concerns about his attitude and possible burn-out.
Djokovic, a six-time champion in Melbourne, had to sit and watch Roger Federer take the crown from him in a bruising five-set battle with Rafael Nadal on Sunday.
So not only did the Serb endure a woeful tournament, he also had to deal with Federer and Nadal showcasing some of their best tennis again. It could be a very competitive year in men’s tennis.
Federer was seeded 17th heading in the tournament after an injury-hit 2016. At 35-years-old, and with little match fitness, he was a long shot to make it to the final, much less win the whole thing.
Djokovic: Federer was outstanding
Yet the 18-time Grand Slam winner’s triumph didn’t come as much of a surprise to Djokovic, who believes Federer was “outstanding”.
Djokovic, who beat Andy Murray in straight sets in last year’s Australian Open final, also reckons Sunday’s final was “one of the sports hallmarks of the year”.
"I am not surprised that Federer won the title because you can always expect him to play at the highest level when he is fit,” Djokovic said, via Sporting Life.
"He was sidelined by injury for six months but having entered the tournament fresh and fit, he played outstanding tennis and I can only congratulate him.
"The final between him and Nadal was one of the sports hallmarks of the year, going beyond tennis itself, as it's been one of the greatest rivalries of all time.
“Nadal, too, played very well and they both showed why they are great champions on and off the court. It was a massive boost for tennis any way you look at it."
Djokovic is expected to turn his attentions to the Davis Cup, where Serbia face Russia in the first round this week.
"I am overjoyed to be back among these guys as we are all close friends and it's a very special atmosphere every time we get together,” the 29-year-old said ahead of Friday’s singles matches.
"Russia are a young and motivated team and we must not underestimate them under any circumstances. I have never played here in Nis but I heard that it's a great atmosphere so I am looking forward to it."