Published: Saturday March 9, 2013 MYT 4:36:00 PM
Unbeaten Djokovic feels momentum building
INDIAN WELLS, California: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic doesn't want to make any predictions, but a third Australian Open title and a 13-match winning streak have 2013 feeling a lot like his landmark 2011 season.
"Well, it feels the same, in a way, the way I started the year," said Djokovic, whose season so far also includes a fourth Dubai Open title.
That's good news for Djokovic, since his 2011 campaign was one for the ages.
The Serb won three Grand Slam titles that year, five ATP Masters crowns and pulled in a record cash haul of $12.6 million.
His win-loss record of 70-6 included a 43-match winning run in the first half of the season, a surge that brought him the Australian Open title and was only ended by Roger Federer's semi-final victory over him in the Roland Garros semi-finals.
"I have great memories from 2011. That was by far the most successful year in my career," Djokovic said Friday as he prepared to launch his campaign at the first Masters tournament of the season at Indian Wells.
"It's very early still to say what's going to happen, so I don't want to predict anything," he said.
"My mindset will stay the same ... take it step by step and then see how far I can go."
Djokovic was delighted at the prospect of the twin hardcourt Masters events at Indian Wells and Miami, believing they give him a good chance to extend his dominance.
Now a fixture among the game's elite, Djokovic still speaks with enthusiasm of the side-effects of tennis stardom that can pall for some.
The days leading up to Indian Wells saw him playing in a charity exhibition in Los Angeles, filming a television commercial with Andy Murray and attending a Los Angeles Lakers NBA game.
Djokovic sounded almost star-struck when he spoke of watching Kobe Bryant and company from court-side seats on Sunday - just a day after he wrapped up the title in Dubai.
"It was great. I met Kobe, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash. Great athletes and great personalities, really, all of them," said Djokovic, who sank a three-pointer while shooting baskets prior to the game.
"I was really surprised that they liked tennis," he added, relating that the Lakers' 2.11m center Howard had told him he had won a tennis tournament as an eighth-grader after his teachers insisted that he play.
"Maybe with those shoulders he can have a big serve," said Djokovic, who was also prepared to offer tennis novice Bryant advice on choosing a racquet.
As a top-flight athlete, Djokovic said, he was mesmerized by his closest view yet of NBA stars in action.
"From a professional athlete's perspective, to see other big and successful athletes from just close by, nearby, you know, moving, sweating, and just fighting their way through to the game was incredible," he said.
Such opportunities make the many demands on his time worthwhile.
On Friday, Djokovic joined fellow stars including Federer, Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka - and tech billionaire tournament owner Larry Ellison - for a ceremonial ground breaking for a new show court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
After the visiting dignitaries offered a few words, the bemused-looking players donned hard hats and tossed spadefuls of sandy desert soil as the cameras clicked.
It's the kind of ceremonial duty that could become tiresome, but the 25-year-old Djokovic says he wants to enjoy all that his on-court success brings him.
"I'm living in the moment," he said. "I'm embracing and cherishing everything that I get from life in every day, really." -AFP