x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Novak Djokovic aims to make more history in Dubai

The world No 1 now wants to go into the record books by winning the Dubai Duty Free ATP Championships for a fourth time in a row. He begins his title defence today against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.

Novak Djokovic said his well-earned rest from tennis allowed him to reflect on memories of his epic five-set Australian Open final victory against Rafael Nadal, which lasted just shy of six hours.
Novak Djokovic said his well-earned rest from tennis allowed him to reflect on memories of his epic five-set Australian Open final victory against Rafael Nadal, which lasted just shy of six hours.

DUBAI // Novak Djokovic has not played any tennis since his triumph at the Australian Open last month. Instead, he has been busy unveiling a wax likeness of himself and receiving the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award.

The Serbian has also been bestowed with his country's top state honour, the Order of the Karadjordje's Star, and he has found time to visit Kopaonik, the place where he was born, for the first time in six years.

The world No 1 now wants to go into the record books by winning the Dubai Duty Free ATP Championships for a fourth time in a row.

"Any kind of history is a blessing," Djokovic said of his chances. "It's something that each player seeks and I would be extremely happy to achieve that.

"Any tournament that I play in now, I am aiming to win. I have been really experiencing the best time of my career, I am at the peak of my form.

"I am 24 and I believe that I can win most of my matches. I always go with that positive attitude."

You could see proof of that in Melbourne, when Djokovic played two marathon matches to retain his crown. First, he fought back from 2-1 down against Andy Murray to win his semi-final in 10 minutes short of five hours. In the final, he needed five hours, 53 minutes to beat Rafael Nadal in the longest final in tennis history.

"I travelled the next day [after the final] back to Europe and I took 10 days off," Djokovic said. "I didn't really do much. I tried to enjoy the two incredible matches that I had played in Melbourne.

"Obviously the final was the most exciting and longest match I ever played. It didn't take me that long to recover. I think I have recovered quite quickly, but that [fatigue] was not on my mind - I was always trying to go back and reflect on the memories …

"It was quite a magnificent, historical moment not just for me, but for Nadal as well ... a match that will always be remembered.

"So it's been a nice couple of weeks for me, without tournaments. I went back to the mountain where I grew up, where I started playing tennis and I went there for the first time after six years. It was quite a special moment for me."

Djokovic will start his campaign for a fourth consecutive title in Dubai today against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, a big-serving German who stretched Lleyton Hewitt to four sets in the first round of the Australian Open this year.

"I don't know much about him," Djokovic said. "My brother grew up with him in juniors and he has been telling me a little bit about him. I watched him play against Hewitt in Australia and he was impressive in that match.

"He was playing really well. So it's going to be tricky. [But] I have always been playing my best tennis is Dubai. I've had a lot of success over the last few years so I have a reason to believe that I can perform equally well this year."