Novak Djokovic suffered a scare Tuesday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he needed to claw through a final-set tie-break to dispatch Tomas Machac. But the World No. 1 said there was good news beyond the result.
“I wasn’t thinking about my leg today, which is great. It was not bothering me at all. That’s great news,” Djokovic said. “But [an] injury is an injury. There’s a muscle memory and it plays with your mind a little bit, it plays with your biomechanics, with your preparation for the shot, execution for the shot. I do feel a difference definitely comparing to the level that I had and the kind of execution I had in Australia.”
It was in Melbourne where Djokovic lifted his 10th Australian Open trophy despite battling through an injury, which noticeably hindered his movement in the early rounds. After finding a way past Machac, the 35-year-old is now 13-0 on the season.
“Of course, there’s a lot to be happy about tonight. I think the fighting spirit was there. Tie-break was as good as it can be,” Djokovic said. “[I will] take it day by day and see where it can go.”
While Djokovic admitted he is still finding his best form, the Serbian also complimented Machac, who was trying to earn the biggest win of his career at the ATP 500 event.
“Credit to him, he did surprise me. Never faced him. I did my analysis of his game and prepared myself well,” Djokovic said. “Credit to him, he went for his shots, especially down the line backhand, serve and volley. He didn’t miss one volley. It was unbelievable. He played on such a high quality. He wasn’t missing at all.”
After the match, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships celebrated Djokovic’s 378th week atop the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. This week the Serbian passed Stefanie Graf for the most weeks as the world’s No. 1 singles player in men’s or women’s tennis.
378 weeks at the top. Novak Djokovic. Elite.#DDFTennis #ATP @atptour pic.twitter.com/VsO9ipbmZi
— Dubai Tennis Champs (@DDFTennis) February 28, 2023
“I work as hard as anybody else. I’m really, really committed to the sport. And I try. There’s a lot of challengers that are coming up in the new generations. Alcaraz being there, probably one of the leaders of the next generation. Rune. Then you have Tsitsipas. These guys are just playing on a high level constantly,” Djokovic said. “They’re playing a lot of tournaments, a lot of weeks. I’m not playing as much, and I don’t plan to play as many weeks as they do.
“I guess eventually they’ll take the No. 1, then I’ll bring it back again, then they’ll take it again, then we go in circles.”