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Filip Krajinovic is feeling relaxed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Krajinovic, Facing Nadal, Is Finally Relaxed In Indian Wells

2017 Paris finalist playing freely with few ATP Rankings points to defend

Filip Krajinovic has learned his ATP Masters 1000 lesson: No more finals. Sixteen months ago, the Serbian made his maiden Masters 1000 title match at the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters (l. to Sock).

The surprise run catapulted him 33 spots up the ATP Rankings, from No. 77 to No. 34. But it also saddled him with dread.

Krajinovic spent most of the first seven months of 2018 injured (left foot, left ankle and hand). By the time he came back feeling healthy, in September, the Rolex Paris Masters, in early November, was already looming.

“It was really tough because I was No. 26 in the world, and I was seeded everywhere and following results, and I couldn't play. That's tough, and I know the end of the year will come and I will lose a lot of points, and start from the beginning again,” Krajinovic said.

This week at the BNP Paribas Open, however, he's smiling and laughing, almost gleefully. His Paris ATP Ranking points came off in November after he lost in the first round, and, as he knew would happen, his ranking fell 59 spots, from No. 34 to No. 93. “I'm free,” he said.

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But he's into the another fourth round at a Masters 1000, and he knows not to make that same mistake again. “I make sure I'm not playing finals. It's better to play quarters,” he said, kidding.

He'll play for a spot in the Indian Wells quarter-finals on Wednesday, against second seed Rafael Nadal, a matchup that might cause more sleepless nights for the Serbian.

He was so anxious and excited during his Paris run that he couldn't rest. “After the second round, I really couldn't sleep. A lot of pressure, first time playing Masters quarter-final. For me, it was really hard. I couldn't really eat,” he told ATPTour.com last year.

His lack of a diet, he said, probably affected him in the final against American Jack Sock, who clinched his 2017 Nitto ATP Finals bid with the title. But Krajinovic said that's in the past, mostly.

“It's easier because now I have more experience. I've played with the big guys already so many times. I'm much more relaxed... Paris was so exciting, and it was the first time,” Krajinovic said. “Now everything's much better, much better... I can sleep fine.”

Although Krajinovic, who spoke before Nadal beat Diego Schwartzman on Tuesday to secure his place in the fourth round, didn't promise any sweet dreams if he were to meet the all-time Masters 1000 champion.

“We'll see, if I play against Rafa, if I'm going to sleep,” Krajinovic said, smiling.

The unlikely Paris finish has been a cradle of motivation and inspiration for him. Krajinovic, playing in only his second tour-level event of the year, qualified and reached the semi-finals before facing John Isner, who was going for his Nitto ATP Finals debut.

But Krajinovic denied the American a feel-good ending, winning 7-6(5) in the third. The Serbian served for the match and smacked a forehand winner crosscourt, cuing the celebration.

He raised his arms and fell to the ground. His coach ripped off his T-shirt, and the main character in the drama cried.

Krajinovic knows the scene well. He's watched the tie-break more than hundreds of times.

1,000 times,” he said, when asked how often he's watched it. “That last point I will never forget, when I hit that forehand winner... I watch that match sometimes when I'm really sad... That's something I'm always going to remember.”

More than bringing back good feelings, however, the clip reminds him of his potential and of how he wants to play this year, starting Wednesday in Indian Wells.

I know if I play well I can be dangerous for every player. I'm 27 years old. I will play many more years, and I hope one day I'm going to play a final again, you never know,” he said.