Davis Cup the launchpad for Djokovic
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Davis Cup the launchpad for Djokovic

Novak Djokovic says he used Serbia's emotional Davis Cup triumph in December to launch his remarkable 2011 season in which he is currently unbeaten in 37 matches.

sports Updated: May 19, 2011 11:53 IST

Novak Djokovic says he used Serbia's emotional Davis Cup triumph in December to launch his remarkable 2011 season in which he is currently unbeaten in 37 matches.

The Serbs, led by Djokovic, won the trophy for the first time by bouncing back from 1-2 down to take the two remaining reverse singles and defeat France in Belgrade sparking huge celebrations that saw all the home players shave their heads.

Two months later Djokovic defeated Andy Murray in straight sets in the final of the Australian Open for his second Grand Slam title and he has been unbeaten since then lifting titles in Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Belgrade, Madrid and Rome.

At the final in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome he defeated world number one Rafael Nadal and by reaching the final in Paris he would be assured of taking the top spot in the rankings for the first time.

"Everything started from the Davis Cup. I did make some changes but all these years I've been in a learning process, working hard and waiting one day for everything to come together and all the work to pay off," he said.

"I was winning major events before but I didn't have this consistency or the right mental approach against the big players.

"I was losing a lot in Grand Slams and Masters against Rafa (Nadal) and Roger (Federer), I didn't have the confidence.

"The Davis Cup gave me incredible energy and I'm definitely not thinking about losing matches, I'm just thinking about winning."

The Djokovic surge this year has finally put paid to the accusations that marked the early part of his career that he lacked bottle and was prone to physical and mental melt-downs when the pressure was on.

He was notably taunted for feigning injury on court by Andy Roddick at the 2008 US Open sparking a war of words between the two players.

Since then, Djokovic took the key step in April of last year to end his association with US coach Todd Martin which had seen him tinkering with his service action in an effort to get more consistency.

Instead he listened exclusively to long-time coach Marian Vajda and that decision is now paying handsome dividends according to Arnaud Di Pasquale, a former top 50 player who is now a performance coach at the French Tennis Federation.

"I think he lost his way a little by trying to expand his coaching team," he said.

"He tried something different and it was an error. Now he knows himself what works for him and what doesn't.

"Physically his ability to stand his ground on the baseline is impressive. In modern-day tennis, the key is to take the ball as early as possible.

"Novak has limitless ambition. He knows excactly where he wants to go and that is a vital ingredient."

What remains to be seen is whether all the physical effort and mental pressure Djokovic has experienced over the last five months will catch up with him at Roland Garros where he will need to play seven best-of-five sets matches to stay unbeaten.

If he gets to the final, Djokovic will have won 43 in a row in 2011 and that will take him past the record run of 42 wins achieved by John McEnroe in 1984.

The American legend though is in no doubt that Djokovic's run has already eclipsed his own.

"Given that there's more competition, more athleticism and deeper fields now, I'd say his record is even more impressive than mine," said McEnroe.

"Especially given that in 1984, the major in Australia was played at the end of the year, whereas he had to win it (as part of his streak).

"I was coming into my first Grand Slam of the year at the French, where the streak was broken (in the final against Ivan Lendl). So things are different.

"Also, he came into the year at No.3 and to be able to dominate (higher ranked players) the way he has, well, to put it mildly, it's been quite amazing to see what he's done and how much more confidently he's playing."

First Published: May 19, 2011 11:50 IST