Djokovic eyes elusive French Open crown

WALKOVER: Djokovic won the ATP World Tour Finals tournament for the third successive year after Federer withdrew from Sunday's final owing to a back injury.


    Nov 18, 2014

    Djokovic eyes elusive French Open crown


    NOVAK Djokovic has set his sights on finally ending his long wait to be crowned French Open champion next year and complete a career Grand Slam.

    The Serb brought the curtain down on his 2014 campaign in unexpected fashion by playing a hastily-arranged exhibition match against Andy Murray at London's O2 Arena, after Roger Federer pulled out of the final of the ATP World Tour Finals just before the match was due to start on Sunday.

    Federer's shock withdrawal meant Djokovic was crowned Tour Finals champion for the third successive year, ending a triumphant year that included his second Wimbledon title and the year-end world No. 1 ranking for the third time in four years.

    But it was hardly a day to remember for the 27-year-old, who admitted to feeling awkward when he was presented with the trophy in front of a 17,500 capacity crowd who had just seen their hopes of a fascinating duel between the world's top two players unexpectedly dashed.

    Federer, 33, had walked on to the court half an hour before the start of the final and announced in a sombre tone that he was withdrawing from the event because he was not "match fit".

    The Swiss, who had withdrawn during tournaments on only two previous occasions as a professional, later explained that he had injured his back in the late stages of his semi-final victory over Stan Wawrinka on Saturday night.

    "I tried all year to be ready for the ATP Finals, and I didn't want it to end this way," he told the crowd. "But I tried everything I could last night and today - painkillers, treatment, rest, warm-up until the very end. But I just can't compete at this level with Novak, and in a final like this, it would be too risky at my age to do this right now. I hope you understand."

    The world No. 2 now faces a race against time to be fit for the Davis Cup final against France, which gets under way in Lille on Friday.

    Djokovic spoke to Federer after learning of his rival's withdrawal, and said the Swiss told him it would be a battle to make the first Davis Cup final of his illustrious career.

    "I spoke to him and it's a question mark for the Davis Cup final. He doesn't know yet," said Djokovic.

    "The stats are saying clearly that he is one of those players that would compete and would always fight if he can...

    "I don't think he was calculating and trying to save his body for Davis Cup final. I'm sure that wasn't the case."

    Turning to next year, Djokovic said he hopes to finally end nine-time champion Rafael Nadal's reign as the king of Parisian clay.

    The French Open is the only major title missing from Djokovic's Grand Slam collection, having lost the 2012 and this year's finals to Nadal.

    "Roland Garros is and was and still will be one of the biggest goals that I have. I'll keep on trying, of course," said Djokovic, who has four Australian Open crowns, two Wimbledon and a single US Open triumph.

    "Right now, I'm at my pinnacle. I feel physically very fit. I'm very motivated to keep on playing on a very high level.

    "So as long as it's like that, I'm going to try to use these years in front of me to fight for No. 1 of the world and to fight for the biggest titles in the sport."

    However, for now, he will gladly resume his new role as a father to baby Stefan, who was born only a few weeks ago.

    Djokovic is relishing the chance to help wife Jelena with baby duties for a while, even if the sleepless nights so familiar to new parents are less welcome.

    "I'm very hands-on. My wife told me what's expected of me!" Djokovic said.

    "I've seen it before I came to Paris and London. I'm glad during the stay in London for these 10 days I got a lot of sleep. That will not be the case from now.

    "I'm looking forward to it. It's the most beautiful feeling that I and my wife have experienced, holding a baby in your arms.

    "There will be a lot of that without the racket in next couple weeks for me."

    AFP, NYT