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Joker Djokovic serious about Grand Slam dream

However, there will be no joking around at the French Open where the 20-year-old Serb is being tipped as one of the few men capable of upsetting the expected Roland Garros dominance of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

sports Updated: May 26, 2007 16:48 IST

Novak Djokovic's last appearance in Paris had the crowd in fits of laughter.

There was nothing funny about his game, but the black Zorro mask he wore as he walked onto court for November's Paris Masters had the fans roaring.

However, there will be no joking around at the French Open where the 20-year-old Serb is being tipped as one of the few men capable of upsetting the expected Roland Garros dominance of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic, the sixth seed, was the last man to beat Nadal this year before the Spaniard's record-breaking run on clay was itself brought to a halt in Hamburg by Federer.

The Serb's memorable win came at the Miami Masters quarter-finals, a tournament he went on to win. The previous week, he had lost to Nadal in the Indian Wells Masters title showdown.

Nadal then got the better of Djokovic in the quarter-finals in Rome in what has been an intriguing mini-rivalry in 2007.

"I always learn something new from matches, whoever I play," said Djokovic on Friday on the eve of his third French Open.

Twelve months ago, he made the quarter-finals where again Nadal got the better of him.

"I played Nadal at the Indian Wells final and I was a bit scared, I didn't play good tactics in the first set," recalled Djokovic of the title match he lost 6-2, 7-5.

"In the second set, I had a few chances. Then in Miami (which Djokovic won 6-3, 6-4), I played a totally different game, I was more patient, more aggressive, more consistent.

"That was probably the best match of my life. Rome was something new, something else.

"Here last year, he was playing some incredible tennis, especially that day. It's something I have to work on if I have the opportunity to play against him again this year."

Djokovic, who played the qualifying tournament here two years ago, can only face Nadal in the semi-finals here and was handed a reasonably good draw on Friday.

After playing a qualifier in the first round, he could go on to face the likes of David Ferrer, the 12th seeded Spanish clay courter, former Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis or even third seed Andy Roddick, a possible quarter-final opponent.

"I like the faster courts," said Djokovic. "The French Open courts are a bit different from the other clay courts. They are faster and are a pleasure to play on.

"This is a Grand Slam and anything can happen."