New-look No­vak gives up on Fed Slams record

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

A new-look No­vak Djokovic said he had given up on chas­ing Roger Fed­erer’s record 17 Grand Slam ti­tles as he made a win­ning re­turn to the ten­nis cir­cuit yes­ter­day. Djokovic, the for­merly in­domitable Serb who has bul­lied his ri­vals over the past two sea­sons, said he had un­der­gone a rad­i­cal re­think af­ter his tra­vails of re­cent months.

The 29-year-old said he no longer saw pro­tect­ing his world num­ber one rank­ing, now un­der threat from Andy Mur­ray, as his pri­or­ity, or breaking Fed­erer’s all-time record. The 12-time Grand Slam-win­ner beat Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-3 at the Shang­hai Masters in his first match back af­ter skip­ping last week’s China Open with an el­bow in­jury. “Right now, no,” he said, when asked if sur­pass­ing Fed­erer’s 17 ma­jor ti­tles was still one of his goals. “I don’t think about that at all. “I don’t think about any tro­phies or num­ber ones in the world, rank­ings, any­thing like that. It’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

“It is there, be­cause I play partly be­cause I en­joy be­ing suc­cess­ful and see­ing the re­sults of my work. But on the other hand that comes se­cond.”

Djokovic has been in a funk since com­plet­ing a career Grand Slam-and a run of four straight ma­jor ti­tles-at the French Open in June.

The Serb, who has ad­mit­ted hav­ing “pri­vate is­sues”, lost in Wim­ble­don’s third round, and then failed to win a match at the Rio Olympics be­fore finishing run­nerup at the US Open.


He said he had had a com­plete change of heart about his ap­proach to ten­nis be­cause the “must-win mind­set... is not work­ing for me any more”.

“I try to be in this mo­ment and take things slowly, and, you know, I’m not rush­ing any­where. I’m not in a need, you know, to achieve any­thing,” he said.

“I feel like I have over­come that step. Right now it’s about just, you know, fol­low­ing my gut, fol­low­ing my in­stinct, what­ever I feel like do­ing.”

He added: “Just be­fore I ar­rived to Olympic Games, things were look­ing great, I was in great shape. I won Toronto. You know, I was, as I can say, the peak of my abil­i­ties. “I was ex­tremely mo­ti­vated to do well there, but I lost that equi­lib­rium. I lost that bal­ance, be­cause I ex­ag­ger­ated with the way I pushed my­self in that kind of prepa­ra­tion and I re­ally, you know, wanted it too much maybe.”

The men­tal re­vamp is as­ton­ish­ing from a player who has long pushed him­self to the limit in pur­suit of per­fec­tion-but who didn’t have to stretch him­self against Italy’s Fognini. A lone break of serve was enough for Djokovic to win the first set and Fognini matched the Serb with strong base­line play un­til 3-3 in the se­cond set.

But Fognini’s serve de­serted him as he dou­ble-faulted to hand over a break, and then again for three match points, be­fore seal­ing his fate with his sev­enth and fi­nal dou­ble. Djokovic gave the Ital­ian a wry smile of sym­pa­thy as they shook hands. The de­fend­ing cham­pion will play Grigor Dim­itrov or Vasek Pospisil in the third round.

Ear­lier out­spo­ken Aus­tralian Nick Kyr­gios said he had to sti­fle yawns as he dis­patched Sam Quer­rey 6-4, 6-4 to tot up his sixth win in a row.

Kyr­gios said he was “bored” and tired af­ter last week’s ex­er­tions at the Ja­pan Open, where he lifted the third tro­phy of his season and career on Sun­day.

“I was just a lit­tle bit bored at times,” he said, when asked why he wasn’t his usual vo­cal self on court. “I was feel­ing very tired today.” Juan Martin del Potro has also been in strong form but his tour­na­ment was quickly over when he was dumped out by Bel­gian seed David Gof­fin 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in 2hr 18min. Bul­garia’s Grigor Dim­itrov beat French seed Richard Gas­quet 6-4, 6-4 as he bounced back quickly from los­ing Sun­day’s China Open fi­nal to Andy Mur­ray.

And Aus­tralia’s Bernard Tomic said his season might be over af­ter he retired with an ab­dom­i­nal prob­lem while 3-6, 3-0 down against Roberto Bautista.

Tomic said he had been struggling with the un­di­ag­nosed in­jury dur­ing last week’s run to the China Open dou­bles fi­nal with his part­ner Jack Sock.

“I’ve just got to look at this and if it’s some­thing I have to stop a lit­tle bit, I have to, and if it means for the rest of the year it means that,” he said. — AFP

SHANG­HAI: No­vak Djokovic of Ser­bia hits a re­turn against Fabio Fognini of Italy dur­ing their men’s sin­gles match at the Shang­hai Masters ten­nis tour­na­ment yes­ter­day. — AFP

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