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Rivals Agree Confidence Is Key

Roland Garros

Federer© AFP/Getty ImagesRoger Federer is following Novak Djokovic's streak intently.

Novak Djokovic’s chief rivals all agree on one thing – confidence is the key to his perfect 37-0 record in 2011 and a 39-match win streak overall heading into Roland Garros. “Right now, he's probably defending better, but I think it has a lot of things [to do] about confidence,” Rafael Nadal said Friday in Paris.

The five-time Roland Garros champion has dropped four matches to Djokovic this year, all coming in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome. “Everybody knows how good Novak is and how good he can be, but he was the same a few years ago. Right now he's winning, and with the victories, his confidence is higher and higher every time,” the Spaniard said.

World No. 3 Roger Federer is in Djokovic’s half of the draw at Roland Garros, and has lost to the Serbian three times in 2011. Like Nadal, the Swiss attributes Djokovic’s success to increased self-belief. “Now, he has more confidence; that's clear,” said Federer.

“Sometimes before when it was windy or he didn't feel good, he was not fighting as much. But now, this winning streak shows that he's playing normally and that he's winning maybe easier than before. But he's the same player. He had some tight matches that he could have lost. He didn't… I don't believe he's different from my point of view. He was always finishing his matches very well.”

Andy Murray, who was two points away from handing Djokovic his first loss of the season in the Rome semi-finals, concurs with Nadal and Federer. “There's definitely no big technical changes. I think he's always been capable of playing great tennis. He's just doing it all the time now,” the World No. 4 said.

“I think he's got the right mentality on the court. He's been very solid throughout the whole year. He's starting tournaments very well, and when he's played against the top guys, he's raised his level, which maybe in the past he hadn't done. He's found a way of winning against them, and now obviously he's got a lot of confidence.”

Djokovic has reached the semi-finals twice, in 2007 and 2008, and can guarantee his place atop the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings should he reach the final. Additionally, should the Serb advance to the championship match, he would surpass John McEnroe for the most wins to start a season without a loss. A title in Paris would tie Djokovic with Guillermo Vilas for the longest win-streak at 46 wins, something Federer is keeping his eye on. “I'm following that very closely,” admitted the 2009 Roland Garros champion.

“What he did is incredible. I was not really surprised that he beat Rafa in Madrid, although I thought Rafa would win because of his results of the former years. But you should not forget that Rafa had lost in Miami and Indian Wells against Novak, too. So this is why it is interesting to follow what is going to happen, whether Novak will overcome Rafa or not. That's why I'm following this.”

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