Djokovic, And His Shoulder, Ready To Battle In Tokyo
Novak Djokovic says his shoulder is “fine”, and he's ready to continue his climb up the all-time list of most weeks spent at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings this week at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.
On Monday, Djokovic (271 weeks) passed Ivan Lendl (270) for third place on the all-time leaderboard. Now only Djokovic's childhood idol, Pete Sampras (286), and all-time leader Roger Federer (310) remain in front of the Serbian.
“I understand why people want to talk about record-breaking, but I feel like we all have our own path, and we all have different careers and just different journeys through life and through tennis,” Djokovic said.
“I want to be able to build my own path and build my own legacy and focus on that rather than breaking someone else’s record. Of course, I care about history. Of course, I want to be the best I can possibly be in the history of this sport. But again, my main attention or focus goes to fuelling my own journey and creating my own legacy.”
Djokovic is making his debut at the ATP 500 event and is attempting to become the 11th World No. 1 to win the Tokyo title.
“I’m excited to be in Tokyo,” he said. “I’ll hopefully get a chance to see a little bit of this country... and get to know the culture that I respect a lot and has some wonderful things that have been exported outside of this country and around the world.”
The Serbian has already experienced some of Japanese culture as he practised sumo wrestling on Monday.
“I have to say that I’m very impressed with the way people treat each other and how nice they are, how humble they are, simple and kind. I feel very welcomed in Tokyo,” Djokovic said. “This is a really big tournament, a very successful tournament historically, so I look forward to hopefully having a successful singles week this week.”
Djokovic is battling Rafael Nadal to finish as the year-end No. 1 for a record-equalling sixth time (2011-12, '14-15, '18). Nadal currently leads Djokovic by 1,960 points in the ATP Race To London with only five weeks remaining in the ATP Tour regular season.
The 32-year-old Djokovic last competed at the US Open, retiring from his fourth-round match against Swiss Stan Wawrinka down two sets to zero because of a left shoulder injury. But Djokovic, who also played doubles on Monday, said he's ready for a full week.
“I wanted to see how [my shoulder] feels during the matchplay. Obviously doubles is quite different from singles. But you’re still playing an official match, so you still feel the nerves and you battle on the court,” Djokovic said. “It’s quite different from playing a practice set or anything in practice, really.
“It seems like my shoulder is fine,” said Djokovic, who faces Aussie qualifier Alexei Popyrin in his opener. “I’m hoping that that’s going to be the case this week as well for singles.”