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Novak Djokovic will go for his sixth Indian Wells title this fortnight.

Djokovic: 'It Was Quite A Journey'

Serbian reflects on past 12 months, since early exit at 2018 Indian Wells

Novak Djokovic is a confident champion, a winner of 32 ATP Masters 1000 titles, including a record five BNP Paribas Opens. But even the Serbian didn't predict his historic 2018 comeback that reached a low point here in Indian Wells 12 months ago.

Djokovic underwent surgery on his right elbow in early February. He arrived at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden anxious to play, despite his team telling him to rest. He then proceeded to endure one of his worst losses, by ATP ranking, in the past eight years: a 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1 defeat to then-No. 109 Taro Daniel.

“I definitely wasn't ready to compete at this level last year. I was kind of convincing myself that I was, but I truly wasn't. I know most of my team members at the time were against me playing in Indian Wells and Miami because it was too early after the surgery,” Djokovic said on Thursday during his pre-tournament press conference.

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But what happened next didn't surprise him. He rehabbed his elbow and recovered his game, winning two ATP Masters 1000 titles (Cincinnati and Shanghai) and two Grand Slams (Wimbledon, US Open) and becoming the first player to achieve the Career Golden Masters. His season-low ranking of No. 22 is the lowest any player has been ranked in the same season they finished year-end No. 1.

“It was quite a journey in the last 12 months,” Djokovic said. “I don't regret [playing in Indian Wells and Miami]. I think maybe from this perspective, I could have, should have made a different decision, but I believe it also taught me some valuable lessons that helped me to create amazing results in the next seven, eight months and get from 22 in the world to No. 1 in the world in less than six months.

“I did go through doubtful moments and questioning everything and experiencing a surgery for the first time in my life was something that I've never experienced before. I didn't know what to expect. I just had to acquaint myself with the new sensations, mental, physical, emotional, and it was all a great learning curve for me.”

The learning phase, however, ended months ago, and Djokovic heads to Indian Wells in search of more ATP Tour history. He and Roger Federer share the record for most titles at the season's first Masters 1000 event (five).

Watch: Djokovic Prepares For Indian Wells With Practice Session With Wawrinka

The Serbian will be playing for the first time since winning his 15th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open on 27 January. He faces the winner of American Bjorn Fratangelo and Elias Ymer of Sweden.

In the third round, Djokovic could meet the winner of Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber and Aussie Nick Kyrgios, last week's Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC champion.

Kyrgios beat No. 2 Rafael Nadal, former No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, No. 9 John Isner and No. 3 Alexander Zverev for his biggest title since October 2016. Djokovic is 0-2 against Kyrgios in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including a straight-sets loss in Indian Wells two years ago.

“We've always been aware of his qualities and talent, and he's got big weapons in his game: serve, obviously one of the best serves on the Tour; big forehand and can play well on different surfaces. It's just whether he's consistent or not, so that's what we're going to see,” Djokovic said.

“I lost to him both times that I played against him. If I get a chance to play against him... I'll look forward to that because he's in-form. On the other hand, I started the season very well. I hope I can restart here where I stopped in Australia.”