Djokovic ready to defend his Australian Open title

Last Updated: Sun, Jan 13, 2013 11:20 hrs

Melbourne, Jan 13 (IANS) Should Serbian Novak Djokovic lift in two weeks' time the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, the men's singles trophy, not only will he remain World No.1, he will also become the first player in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian Open titles.

"From my personal experience, I like playing here because it's after probably five, six, seven weeks of break with no official tournament," Djokovic was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

"So you get time to recover, regroup, recharge your batteries mentally, physically, try to get ready for the new season with four, five weeks of good practice. You come here fresh. You're motivated and inspired to play some good tennis."

His first opponent will be France's Paul-Henri Mathieu, who Djokovic will not be taking lightly.

"Maybe he's lower ranked at this moment but he was a top 20 player. He knows how it feels to play on a big stage. There is no underestimating him, that's for sure. I'm going to try to focus from the start," the Serb said.

From there Djokovic's road to history gets a little bumpier: potential meetings with 15th seed Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round, fifth seed Tomas Berdych in the quarters and possibly David Ferrer, the fourth seed, in the semifinals, won't be easy.

One person who is guaranteed to not be there on the second Sunday is world No.4 and Australian Open 2012 finalist Rafael Nadal. With Nadal sidelined with a virus, there will be no repeat of last year's classic meeting between the two.

"It is definitely a loss for the tournament, for tennis, for sport in general not to have Rafa playing still on the court. It's been, what, seven months since he's played his last official match," Djokovic said.

"I'm sure if he felt he was ready enough to play this tournament, best-of-five in the Australian summer that can be brutal and difficult to play, then he would come. He probably felt he needs more time to recover. I wish him a speedy recovery."

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