Victory in Miami buoys Djokovic for clay court

Victory in Miami buoys Djokovic for clay court

MIAMI - Agence France-Presse
Victory in Miami buoys Djokovic for clay court

Djokovic kisses the trophy after defeating Andy Murray in Key Biscayne. AP photo

Novak Djokovic’s third Miami Masters title on April 1 had the world number one looking back fondly on his Florida triumphs, but more importantly looking ahead -- to the clay court season and beyond.
“Any title is big, and it means a lot,” Djokovic said after beating Andy Murray 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) in the final at Key Biscayne. “Such a big tournament that is considered one of the biggest in our sport.

“I won three times here. I think that says enough about how I feel playing in Miami.” Djokovic, who won his first Miami title in 2007 and beat Rafael Nadal in the final last year, said the successful title defense was a boost heading into the Monte Carlo Masters.

He didn’t drop a set in Miami, closing out his quarter-final, semi-final and final opponents with second-set tiebreakers to preserve that record. “This is going to be very encouraging for me prior to the clay court season,” said Djokovic.

If he can claim clay’s biggest prize, the French Open, he would hold all for major titles at once. First, however, he’ll tackle the Monte Carlo Masters.

“I didn’t play it last year,” said Djokovic, who won Masters titles on clay at Madrid and Rome last year but fell in the semi-finals at Roland Garros. “I look forward to it. I want to start well. I want to start strong.

“Clay demands the most physical effort out of all surfaces. You have to be physically very fit. Your endurance has to be on a very high level, because all the long rallies that you play on hard courts, it’s double that on clay.” While Djokovic hasn’t matched the astonishing 43-match winning run he put together in the first half of 2011, he has earned one Grand Slam title this year at the Australian Open.
He reached the semi-finals at Dubai and at Indian Wells before lifting the trophy in Miami -- encouraging signs in a 2012 campaign in which he is also focused on retaining his Wimbledon crown and on the London Olympics.

“I think I’m playing equally well as I did 12 months ago,” he said. “But again, it’s different. It’s a different approach. I still want to fight for every title, not really defending or calculating how many points I can lose and things like that.

“I’m playing at the peak of my form. I have to use that as much as I can.” Far from separating himself from his rivals, Djokovic said he believes the top players on the men’s tour are closer than ever.
“There is no gap, really,” he said. “Every tournament is a new opportunity for all the players to win a title. That’s how I look at it.”