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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday February 26, 2023


The World No.1 is gearing up for his first matches since winning his 22nd major title.

Photo Source: Getty

Novak Djokovic is feeling fresh and ready as he makes his return to the court this week in Dubai. The World No.1, who injured himself prior to the Australian Open and played the tournament with a tear in his hamstring, has taken the proper amount of time to rest, recover and he comes to Dubai pain-free.

Tennis Express

“It was always the plan to be here and participate in the Dubai Duty Free Championships,” Djokovic said in his pre-tournament press conference on Sunday. “After Australian Open was finished, it was uncertain. I didn't know whether I was going to be here or not. Probably only five, six days ago we knew that it's going to be possible for me to play as we were testing the leg on the tennis court.

“I had enough time in the gym, so to say, fitness-wise, built a good base. Had a couple of weeks of no tennis. Almost three weeks. Last few days it's really getting as much tennis practice points as possible to get myself back in a competitive shape in order to be able to compete in a high level.”

Djokovic, who has been out of action for nearly two months since raising his 22nd major trophy in Melbourne on January 29, says he has been pain-free for a week.

“I haven't felt any pain whatsoever out on the court for a week now,” he said. “I'm getting closer to the hundred percent. Still not there in terms of the game itself, how I feel on the court. But the important thing is there is no pain. I don't have a hindrance to the way I move on the court.”

High on motivation

There is no lack of motivation for Djokovic, who told reporters that he is always seeking new challenges and new ways to improve his already legendary game.

“I think in the core of my motivation, it's just a mentality of wanting always to be better than I was yesterday,” he said. “So on a daily basis or kind of a short-term goal is to always try to improve every aspect of the game 'cause I always believe that there is something to work on.

“I think keeping that kind of a mindset also drives me and drives my team members to really take every tournament as a new challenge, biggest challenge we have in this moment. I feel like that kind of attitude got me to where I am in terms of achievements in my career.”

“Surreal” to match and pass Graf in weeks at No.1

Djokovic will etch another chapter into tennis’ record books on Monday when he begins his 378th week at No.1, passing Steffi Graf on the all-time list to stand alone. He says he never could have imagined achieving such a feat when his career began.

“It's surreal in a way to be that many weeks world No. 1, to match Steffi Graf, that is one of the all-time greats of our sport, both men and women,” he said. “Just being amongst these legendary names is flattering. Of course, I'm very proud of it.”

If Carlos Alcaraz wins the title in Rio on Sunday the pair would be tied at the top of the ATP rankings with 6980 points, but Djokovic would remain No.1 due to a tiebreaker. The plot could thicken next week with Djokovic in Dubai and Alcaraz scheduled to play in Acapulco. Djokovic says the No.1 ranking isn’t top priority at the moment.

“Of course, I would like to be No. 1, I would like to maintain that position,” he said. “But at the same time I have other priorities, top priorities, which is first of all trying to be healthy and preparing myself in every sense of that word for the tournaments that I'm going to be participating in, particularly building form and trying to peak at the Grand Slams.

"Those are the tournaments to me that in a way count the most. Of course, the ATP 1000 events where I'm going to play. Those are the goals.”

No change, as Djokovic seeks exemption to play Indian Wells and Miami

Djokovic is seeking an exemption to enter the United States to play Indian Wells and Miami in March, but the 35-year-old hasn’t heard any good news yet, so the time continues to tick.

“In terms of the process in America, no, I have not received anything new comparing to what I said to the media in Belgrade some days ago. Right now it's the same situation.”


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