Dubai Defending champion Novak Djokovic is looking to this year’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to push on from last month’s shock defeat Down Under.
World No.2 Djokovic was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, losing in five sets to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka.
Having won the event four-times since 2008, the 26-year-old Serbian had been expected to retain it for a fourth consecutive season. Hiring former six-time Grand Slam winner Boris Becker as his coach had also added to the expectations.
However, the defeat has left him in need of a quick pick-me-up and there can be no better place than Dubai where Djokovic has won four-times since 2009. “It was a tough loss for me,” said Djokovic. “But I wasn’t disappointed because I knew I gave it my all and fought until the last point. I lost an incredibly close match to a better player who after that went on to win the tournament.
“It’s sport, you win and lose, it’s normal. It’s not because Boris was there instead of [former coach] Marian [Vajda] as many people were saying.”
The six-time Grand Slam winner added that taking some time off after Melbourne had also helped him refocus. “In the last three weeks after the Australian Open I’ve done a lot of things and been to places that I haven’t visited since childhood,” he said. “I reconnected with a period of growing up and spent time with family. It’s something that has given me a lot of food for my soul and a lot of life energy that I can hopefully transfer on to the court.
“I miss competition and I miss playing matches and I can’t wait to get back out on court. It’s still only the beginning of the season and I’m still running on the confidence I have from the end of last year.”
Djokovic also said that Becker’s appointment was mainly intended to help him finish off Grand Slam opportunities, which he felt he had wasted in the past. “We are not significantly changing anything in my game,” he said. “The biggest part I hope he’ll contribute towards is the mental side of my game.
“I’ve felt I’ve dropped two or three [Grand Slam] titles that I should have won over the last few years. That mental edge has been lacking and hopefully he can contribute.
“We have different games. He was a serve-and-volley player, strong and muscular, whereas on the contrary I stay more on the baseline. I still need to learn to use the opportunities that my groundstrokes present to come to the net more.”
Djokovic will be back in action against Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships at Dubai Tennis Stadium on Tuesday. If successful, he could be on his way to face 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer in the semi-finals.