Novak Djokovic said that the Australian Open was “emotionally one of the most challenging Grand Slams that I ever had” after he had completed a straight-sets victory over Russian Daniil Medvedev on Sunday.

The now nine-times Australian Open champion Djokovic had drawn a lot of flak in the lead-up to the year’s first Grand Slam for petitioning organisers to ease Australia’s strict quarantine protocols for players isolating for two weeks before the tournament.

Djokovic has been through a difficult, pandemic-affected year in which his public image took a battering for a number of incidents.

He was disqualified from the US Open in the fourth round for accidentally hitting a ball into a line judge.

He was criticised for organising the controversial Adria Tour in the Balkans last year where players partied and later tested positive for COVID-19.

“Of course, it hurts,” he told reporters of criticism in the media.

“I’m a human being like yourself, like anybody else. I have emotions. I don’t enjoy when somebody attacks me in the media openly and stuff. Of course, I cannot say I don’t care about it or whatever.

“But I think I’ve developed a thick skin over the years to just dodge those things and focus on what matters to me the most.”

Earlier, Medvedev in his post-match press conference, had jokingly referred to Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as “Cyborgs” for their continued success in Grand Slam tournaments. Federer and Nadal both have 20 singles titles while Djokovic is now up to 18.

Djokovic laughingly called the trio the “Three Knights of Tennis” but he had a serious message for the likes of Medvedev who are hoping to follow on.

“Roger, Rafa, myself are still there for a reason. We don’t want to hand it to them and we don’t want to allow them to win slams. I think that’s something that is very clear. We are definitely sending that vibe out there. I’m sticking to that.”