Confident Djokovic shoots for another desert title
Indian Wells (United States) (AFP)
Novak Djokovic's opponents have learned over the years that it is never wise to bet against him and it will be no different as he begins his quest for a third consecutive Indian Wells title.
Djokovic is also aiming for his fifth overall at this week's ATP and WTA Tour tournament, one of the biggest events on the tennis calendar outside of the four Grand Slams.
"My approach is not that I have to win this, or I am supposed to win this, but I am going to win this," Djokovic said Friday. "Then I am able to believe in myself and that confidence has brought me to where I am today."
He is the heavy favourite to take another title at Indian Wells and hopes to use that as a stepping stone towards his first French Open crown which would complete the career Grand Slam.
If Djokovic defends his title in California it would make him the most successful player in the history of the hardcourt tournament.
"I like the speed of the courts here," he said. "I feel comfortable. The ball bounces high and I grew up on clay so I am use to high bounces."
Djokovic also enters Indian Wells with a 16-1 record this year. His only loss was to Feliciano Lopez in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. He has dropped just four out of 39 total sets.
The 28-year-old Serb opened the season by winning the Doha title and then followed by capturing his 11th career Grand Slam crown and a record-tying sixth Australian Open.
In his last tournament in Dubai, he was forced to retire in the quarter-finals because of an eye infection. It snapped a streak of 17 straight finals going back to last year's Aussie Open.
"It was a couple of not easy weeks for me health-wise," Djokovic said. "It is the first time in my life I have had some kind of issue with my eye."
Djokovic has won 11 straight matches in Indian Wells since his latest loss to del Potro in the semi-finals three years ago.
Djokovic and Roger Federer own the tournament record with four titles each. Federer is not here but the unseeded del Potro is after having missed the last two tournaments with injury.
The draw sets up a possible semi-final clash between Djokovic and Spaniard Rafael Nadal. They're almost even in their 47 career meetings, with the Djokovic owning a 24-23 advantage.
"All in all I feel good," he said. "I have already adjusted to the time zone of the west coast. I am getting back to normal. Hopefully I will be able to play my best from the beginning.
"The Grand Slams are the biggest but Indian Wells is right behind it."
© 2016 AFP