by JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – Novak Djokovic knows what you say about him.
“I do keep track on what’s going on. I do see a lot of the things written about me,” he told reporters at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
“I’ve, I think, over the years learned how to deal with the different kinds of pressure and expectations that are there as expected because you are one of the top tennis players in the world and people want to see you lifting all the trophies wherever you play.
“But pressure in a way is a challenge for all of us. You know, just knowing that I’m doing something that I really love and that I’ve done all my life, that’s enough for me.”
Those expectations were amped up after his stunning success last year, when Djokovic became ranked No. 1 in the world and won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, as well as Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome and Montreal and tournaments in Dubai and Belgrade.
Six of those titles came at the expense of Rafael Nadal. And the Serbian also beat his rival for another Australian Open trophy, his third, earlier this year.
Nadal, however, has since turned the tables and defeated Djokovic in the finals of Monte Carlo, Rome and the French Open.
“Even though I won that many matches against him in 2011, mostly in the finals of major events, very few points actually decide the winner on that level,” said Djokovic, currently ranked as the ATP World Tour No. 2. “I didn’t expect myself to continue on winning against Nadal every single match we play against each other.”
“I’m confident that we are going to have many more great matches,” he added. “It’s normal that I win, I lose and I move on.”
After defending his title in Canada just days ago, Djokovic said he has been focused more on recovery than practice.
If he reaches the final in Ohio and Roger Federer loses before the quarterfinals, he’ll regain the No. 1 ranking.
If Federer reaches the quarterfinals or semifinals, Djokovic would have to win the title to overtake him. But if the Swiss reaches the final, he’ll retain the top spot regardless.
Federer has been very successful in Cincinnati, winning the titles in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Djokovic was the runner-up in 2008, 2009 and 2011. He is scheduled to play Andreas Seppi in the second match Wednesday on Center Court, while Federer takes on Alex Bogomolov Jr. not before 7 p.m.
James Henry is a contributing writer for OnTheGoTennis and is currently in Cincinnati covering the tournament. To follow him on Twitter click here.
Photos by James Henry