Indian Wells: Comfortably the best player in the world for more than a year, Novak Djokovic believes he is close to the stunning form he produced to launch his 2011 campaign with a 41-0 record.
The top-ranked Serbian has clinched four of the last five grand slams and stayed on track for a third Indian Wells title after beating Spaniard Pablo Andujar 6-0, 6-7, 6-2 in the fourth round on Wednesday.
"I`m playing better as the tournament goes on and that`s the goal, to perform as best as I can," Djokovic told reporters after booking his place in the last eight of the elite ATP Masters 1000 event.
"Of course my best changes day to day. It`s not easy to always perform 100 percent every match you play because it`s a different opponent, different conditions. As the tournament goes on you, there is more importance, more pressure of the matches.”
"But I believe I`m playing better, and in that first set and in the third set today I think I`ve played as well as I played at this stage last year."
Twelve months ago, Djokovic was on his way to a remarkable 41-0 win streak that finally ended with his French Open semi-final loss to Roger Federer in June.
Since then, he has triumphed at Wimbledon and the US Open, then successfully defended his title at the Australian Open in January where he outlasted Spaniard Rafa Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 in an epic final.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN BOOST
"Pretty much all of the first half of last year I played great," Djokovic said. "Australia was an incredible tournament for me, and when you start the year with a grand slam win, it gives you a lot of confidence.”
"I was playing on that confidence run, and I was trying to be 100 percent committed to every match that I play. That mindset that I had of just taking one match at a time helped me to have the streak that I had.”
"But it wasn`t easy, of course. Everybody was talk talking about when the loss will come, and it had to come sometime. I was aware of that, but I was not trying to think about every win that I had."
Djokovic, Indian Wells champion in 2008 and again last year when he beat Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the final, remains on course for another title showdown with the Spaniard should the seedings pan out.
The 24-year-old Serb has always relished his matches against Nadal and Swiss Federer, who each advanced to the quarter-finals at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Wednesday.
"They both present a big challenge for me every time I played them," said Djokovic, who posted a remarkable win-loss record of 70-6 in 2011.
"Our matches in the past have made me a better player; made me understand what I need to work on to win against them. It`s thrilling for us and it`s challenging.”
"I think it`s interesting for the crowd and for the tournaments to see the top players playing against each other. It`s something that at the present moment gives men`s tennis that extra positive vibe in sports."
Djokovic will face Spaniard Nicolas Almagro on Thursday for a place in the last four at Indian Wells.
First Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012, 11:40