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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Tennis

Djokovic sees record streak as boost for 2014
AFP
Belgrade, November 18, 2013
First Published: 09:01 IST(18/11/2013)
Last Updated: 09:07 IST(18/11/2013)

Novak Djokovic failed to lead Serbia to a Davis Cup triumph on Sunday, but a streak of 24 straight victories left him upbeat for next season in which he vows to focus on Grand Slam titles.

The world number two swept the Czech Republic's Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych in straight sets, but his two points did not stop the Czechs from winning their second straight Davis Cup trophy, 3-2.

Still, the wins number 23 and 24 lifted Djokovic's spirits after a season in which he won a single major -- the Australian Open -- and lost the top post in ATP rankings to Rafael Nadal.

"It's an incredible number considering the fact that I lost three big matches in three months -- Roland Garros (semi-finals) , Wimbledon (final) and the US Open (final)," said Djokovic.

"But I managed to bounce back and managed to play my best tennis in the last two and a half months," he added.

"I'm full of confidence on the court and hopefully I can carry that into the next season."

The 26-year-old said he hoped the streak that brought him titles from Beijing, Shanghai, Paris and London was not over.

"I hope I'll be able to retain that at the beginning of next season," said Djokovic, who has so far clinched four Australian Open titles, and one Wimbledon and US Open title.

"I'll start with the Australian Open which is the Grand Slam at which I've scored the most successes, and I'm looking forward to going there," he added.

"My goal in general is to play my best tennis and to get in shape for the Grand Slams. These tournaments have the most weight in our sport, and I want to prove my worth at them."

"Of course at the other tournaments, I play each match to win. But I feel I have let escape several Grand Slam titles which I could definitely have won."

After winning the Australian Open in January, Djokovic suffered a frustrating semi-final loss to Nadal at the French Open -- the one Grand Slam title he has never won.

That was followed by a Wimbledon final defeat against Andy Murray and another painful loss at Nadal's hands in the US Open that eventually led to the Spaniard replacing Djokovic at the top of the world rankings.

Djokovic beat Nadal in straight sets at the ATP World Tour Finals in London last Monday.

But he insisted dethroning his top rival was not the key goal for next season.

"For me, Grand Slam tournaments are the top priority rather than becoming the world number one again, although I'm aware that the rankings will come if I win more than two Grand Slam tournaments next year," he said.

Even though he lost the top spot, some see him as the world's top player.

"He's now the strongest player that's playing in the world and he proved it today," Berdych, the world number seven, said after losing to Djokovic on Sunday.

"It's incredible how he can read the game and what sense of the game he has. As if he knew what I'll play before I take the decision," he added.

"He incredibly covers the most realistic options, and if you add his great movement, you have a player that makes you feel you're playing against a wall."

Equally impressed with Djokovic's style, Radek Stepanek shook his head in disbelief at Serbia's decision not to use the in-form Djokovic for Saturday's Davis Cup doubles.

"It's as if they left a Ferrari in a garage. And it cost me ten euros -- I bet he'd play."


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