PARIS, France, Oct 31 – Novak Djokovic admits that Andy Murray’s dramatic last-gasp assault on his world number one ranking has rejuvenated a season which was limping into mediocrity for the 12-time major winner.
Djokovic has suffered a worrying dip in form since winning his first French Open and completing the career Grand Slam in June.
He had a shock early loss at Wimbledon followed by a first-round exit at the Olympics and a runners-up spot at the US Open.
But as the 29-year-old prepares to defend the Paris Masters title he has won for the past three years, he insists Murray’s charge for the top has provided the fresh impetus he needs.
“It makes me want to go on court and fight for every point because there is something to win at the end,” Djokovic said, adding he felt “rejuvenated and regenerated”.
If Djokovic reaches next Sunday’s final in Paris he will retain the world number one ranking that he has held for 122 weeks straight, no matter what Murray does in the French capital.
But if he fails to make the championship match, then Murray will become the number one as long as the British star wins the title.
The 29-year-old Briton took a step closer to the top spot on Sunday by winning the Vienna ATP title.
“Andy is playing maybe the best tennis he’s ever played. He definitely deserves to be in the position to finish up the year as number one. Whether or not that’s going to happen, it doesn’t depend only on him. It depends on me as well,” said Djokovic.
“I just try to work on my game these days and I know if I’m on the level I desire, I can challenge anybody or beat anybody.”
– ‘New ambition’ –
Djokovic, who has admitted “private issues” contributed to his summer slump — he has not said what those were — believes Paris is the perfect place to revive his fortunes on his return to the French capital.
“Winning Roland Garros this year gave me a lot of joy but it required a lot of energy. I felt a little exhausted after and I was a little less motivated,” said the Serb, who hasn’t played since a semi-final defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut in the Shanghai Masters in mid-October.
“I took a little time to think about all these things, to find a new motivation and a new ambition. It’s in place. I feel good. I’m happy to come back here to Paris. I hope to have a good week.”
Djokovic has a bye in the first round at the Paris Masters before facing either Nicolas Almagro or Gilles Muller.
In Vienna, Murray swept past Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) to earn his seventh title of the year and ramp up the pressure on Djokovic.
The Olympic and Wimbledon champion took his recent run to 15 straight victories, in which he has picked up the China Open and Shanghai Masters titles as well.
He now has 42 career titles and a second in Vienna, after also winning in 2014.
“I think I played my best tennis of the tournament today,” said Murray.
Like Djokovic, Murray too has a first-round bye in Paris and will face either Fernando Verdasco or Robin Haase in his opening match.