Novak Djokovic – that charming tennis huckster, that tennis salesman extraordinaire – was there in front of the cameras again Tuesday afternoon, live and in person, which answered the first question on everybody’s mind. Would the talented Serb, the top seed and No. 2 player in the world, take a powder on the Rogers Cup like so many others have this year. No, he wouldn’t.
In a year when a veritable Spanish Armada, plus the world’s No. 1 player Roger Federer, all gave the tournament a pass, Djokovic is here to defend the title he won last year in Montreal; and if his body language was any indication, is happy enough to do it.
Djokovic was on an extraordinary run last year. His victory over American Mardy Fish in the final ran his 2011 record to a phenomenal 53-1, one of the most dominant streaks in the history of tennis, the only loss coming to Federer on clay in the semi-final of the French Open.
What a contrast then to that 72-hour period last week in London, when Djokovic lost twice – once to Andy Murray and once to Juan Martin del Potro – which left him shut out of the Olympic medals, a disappointing end to a week which saw him carry the flag on behalf of all Serbia’s athletes.
But Djokovic was nothing but charming in advance of his first-round match against Australia’s Bernard Tomic, which is scheduled for Wednesday night. Djokovic began by talking about his love of playing in Canada because of the support he gets from all “the people from the ex-Yugoslavian region that live here.”
He then segued into a discussion about how all the ATP players knew from the start of the year that this would be a challenging week – making the quick transition from London to Toronto and from the grass at Wimbledon to the hard courts in Toronto.
“It’s going to be difficult, because we have so little time, but we’ll try to do it in the most efficient way possible,” said Djokovic. “How it’s going to go, I’m not sure. I cannot predict anything in my opening match.”
Finally, Djokovic talked about how it would have been impossible to duplicate the kind of six months he had at the start of 2011, which briefly gave him the No. 1 ranking in the world – since ceded back to Federer. Djokovic won the first Grand Slam of this season in Australia as well as the Masters event in Miami, but lost on clay to Rafael Nadal at the French and in the semi-finals of Wimbledon, where Federer triumphed for the seventh time.
“Well, it’s hard to expect you can always win every single match that you play in six months,” said Djokovic, with a smile. “You know, that’s really hard to repeat.”
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