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Djokovic Flies High, But Stays Grounded

Indian Wells, U.S.A.

Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic, pictured on the wing of a Bombardier Learjet 45 XR at the Bermuda Dunes Airport, is the defending BNP Paribas Open champion.

Novak Djokovic returns to the BNP Paribas Open as the World No. 1 and defending champion, but enters with the mentality that he’s part of the chasing pack.

“I believe that the right mindset is to always try to be a part of that group of the players that is going to win the title, going to hunt that title, and that every year is different,” said the Serbian on Friday in Indian Wells. “I'm not really trying to position myself as a defending champion, because then defending is not really something that I want to have. I always try to get that aggressive approach.

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“I still have the same daily routine, same approach to my career, to the life that I'm having,” he added. “I don't consider myself being in the top of the world, being untouchable or unbeatable. That's out of the question. I always try to give my 100 per cent on every practice that I have. I always wanted to have the positive mindset in preparing well for every event, for every season. I think that helps me to stay committed and focused on what I need to do. My job is to play tennis, to win matches and try to win as many titles as possible.”

Last year, Indian Wells was the third stop of a phenomenal season start that included seven titles and a 41-0 match record through the Roland Garros semi-finals. This time around, he enters with a blemish already on his record - a straight-sets loss to Andy Murray last week in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semi-finals.

“I [didn’t play] great there in that event, especially that day he was playing better,” he admitted. “I'm putting that aside. I'm moving on. I have very, very important tournaments ahead of me that I need to prepare for.”

The BNP Paribas Open has been an important part of Djokovic’s career. He reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final at this event in 2007 (l. to Nadal), a performance that propelled into the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings for the first time, and won the title the following year with victory over Mardy Fish.

In 2011, he looked on the verge of dropping to an 0-6 mark against Rafael Nadal in tour-level finals, before staging a successful comeback in a gripping finale. It started a seven-match winning streak against Nadal, all in title matches, including an epic Australian Open final earlier this season.

“It's always good to be back in a place where I did so well in last five years, played finals and won two titles, so it's always a challenge,” said Djokovic. “It's always something to look forward to, because it's one of the best events that we have in the sport...

“You need to play lots of matches and you play against best players in the world. The conditions here are suitable to my style of the game. I think the courts are a little bit slower, which I like and prefer better, so I'm looking forward to this week.”

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