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“Trivalry” In Battle For No. 1

Miami, U.S.A.

Novak Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic has lauded it over his rivals in the first three months of the season, but will his dominance continue on the clay?

Novak Djokovic believes the battle to finish as the year-end No. 1 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings will be a three-way contest between himself, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

The Serbian has opened the 2011 ATP World Tour season with a perfect 24-0 mark, taking in titles at the Australian Open, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami, and believes he is well placed to stake a claim for the top spot with a strong showing in the upcoming clay-court season.

"I know I had the best start of the season, no question about it. It's [been] the best four months in my life. This is going to give me a big confidence boost for the upcoming clay-court season," said the 23 year old. "This streak is incredible that I have, and I want to keep on working hard and try to get more success. Then the clay courts come where I haven't had a lot of success [in the] past years. So maybe that's my chance to really try and get some success.

"If I want to have that shot, the No. 1 ranking, I need to play consistently well throughout the whole year," continued Djokovic. "We all know that clay is [Nadal’s] favourite surface, and obviously somewhere where he plays his best. Over the years, he's been the king of that surface and the guy to beat. He didn’t lose last year on clay. He comes up always with his best game on the clay court tournaments.

"I think I have the game to challenge him on that surface, and I showed that in 2009. I think we had some great matches in Monte Carlo, [in the] final; in Madrid, [in the] semi-finals, so it is possible."

Indeed, current World No. 1 Nadal believes that while his results on the clay could hold Djokovic off for a short spell, it is just a matter of time before the Serbian assumes the top ranking.

"I think he's going to be No. 1 [at some point]," said the Spaniard, who was beaten by Djokovic in the finals at Indian Wells and Miami. "He won two tournaments in a row right now, very big tournaments and one Grand Slam.  [The] normal thing is he will be No. 1 in the next month, month and a half, two months. I don't know. Depends on my results on clay. For sure he will be there. I am going to fight for me. If I am solid, if I play a very good clay-court season, we will see what's going on after."

Djokovic’s stellar performances this season have seen him usurp Federer at No. 2 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings, and despite the Swiss suffering a comprehensive defeat at the hands of Nadal in the Miami semi-finals, Djokovic expects him to continue challenging for the top honours.

"I don't think Roger is separated [from the top two]," said the Serbian of the 16-time Grand Slam winner. "He's still up there. It's obvious that he still wants to come back to be No. 1 in the world and he's hungry for more success. Of course he's not going to just pull back from that.

"He didn't have the best start to the season, but he was still in most of the tournaments semi-finals, finals. So he's definitely going to be one of the contenders for the top spot in the rankings at the end of the year.

"If you want to call it trivalry, whatever you want to call it, I don't know. I just try to focus on what I do. Of course Roger and Rafa are the two biggest rivals that I have, and of course there are many more players out there are able to play great tennis. We cannot forget about them. [Andy] Murray, [Robin] Soderling, [Andy] Roddick, the Spaniards."

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