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Djokovic Credits Dimitrov, Looks Ahead To Rome

Madrid, Spain

Djokovic © Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic saved a match point in the second set, but was unable to complete the comeback in his Madrid opener.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic worked hard off the court to rehabilitate his ankle following Monte-Carlo, but admitted that a lack of hitting practice factored into a 7-6(6), 6-7(8), 6-3 loss against Grigor Dimitrov in his opening match Tuesday night at the Mutua Madrid Open.

“For 12 days after Monte Carlo, I haven’t touched the racquet… I didn’t prepare myself so well,” he said. “But I’m not trying to find any excuses for the loss. I tried to do my best… All the credit also to Dimitrov, because he was the better player on the court. He was striking the ball really well, serving great, changing the pace and he deserved to win.”

Djokovic had come to Madrid looking to win a second straight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title on clay. He had overcome a right ankle injury sustained in Davis Cup action to unseat eight-time defending champion Rafael Nadal at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters a few weeks ago. 

Although the loss doesn’t put Djokovic’s immediate hold on the No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking in danger, it has opened the door to rivals like Nadal in the battle for the year-end No. 1 ranking. The Spaniard, who has won four tournaments from six straight final appearances this season, looks most likely to pressure Djokovic and can make up points this week following a third-round exit last year in Madrid (l. to Verdasco).

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Despite the loss and an injury scare in the second set when he rolled his right ankle and took an extended medical timeout, Djokovic did not regret the decision to play in Madrid.

“I thought it was the right decision because, luckily for me, nothing really happened when I twisted the ankle during the match,” he said. “It was a slight moment. I had good protection on my ankle. So right now that is the only positive thing that I look into, is that I didn’t injure my ankle worse before Rome and Paris.”

Djokovic now turns his attention to next week’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he is a two-time champion and also finished runner-up to Nadal last year.

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