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Djokovic: "Everybody Is Starting From Scratch"

New York, U.S.A.

Djokovic © Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic will look to reach his sixth US Open final.

This year’s US Open has new significance for Novak Djokovic. Not only will this be the Serbian’s first Grand Slam appearance as a married man, but it also marks his last before becoming a father.

“I with no doubt have only positive and joyful feelings approaching fatherhood, and hopefully, it's going to happen in less than two months,” the World No. 1 said Saturday, ahead of his 10th appearance at Flushing Meadows.

“Then I'm going to enjoy it and try to take as much energy as I can, positive energy to kind of transfer that to the tennis court. But without a doubt, life changes. Priorities change. My priorities: my family, my wife, my future kid. Tennis is definitely not No. 1 anymore.”

While he enters a new phase of his life off the court, 27-year-old Djokovic still remains focused on excelling on court during the peak years of his tennis career.

“I have high expectations for myself,” he said. “I always have. Especially at this stage of my career where I feel like now is the time that I'm at my peak physical strength. I want to use this time of my career as much as I can to win as many matches as possible.”

Djokovic enjoyed great highs in July – winning his seventh Grand Slam title at Wimbledon with victory over Roger Federer, returning to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and getting married – and then experienced a couple of lows in August, with back-to-back third-round exits in Toronto and Cincinnati. Prior to that, he had not lost before the quarter-finals in more than a year.

New York may be just what he needs to get back to his winning form. Djokovic has an impressive 45-8 tournament record at the year’s final major, reaching the final on his past four visits and lifting the trophy in 2011. He also finished runner-up to Federer in 2007.

Despite his success here, the top seed played down the idea of ‘favourites’ in this year’s field.

“I know that there is one thing for sure: everybody is starting from scratch,” he said. “Everybody starts from Monday. Whoever ends up on Monday with the trophy is the winner.

“It's very open. I think nowadays the competition level is higher because you have players who are ranked around 15, 20 in the world who are working very hard who have developed their skills, and the quality of the tennis that they are playing is higher than, let's say, five years ago, in my opinion. That makes it harder for top players to win this tournament.”

In addition to the emergence of young contenders including Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, both semi-finalists at Wimbledon, Djokovic spoke of the additional challenges facing players today.

“Of course it's not easy because the game has become more physical nowadays, especially on the Grand Slams,” he said. “It's not only physical energy that is necessary to be on high level. It's also emotional. It takes a lot of effort emotionally and physically to be on top of your skills and game to perform well.”

He will open his campaign Monday night on Arthur Ashe Stadium against 80th-ranked Diego Schwartzman. The 22-year-old Argentine will be making his main draw debut at Flushing Meadows.

“It's obviously always tricky to play against somebody I never faced before,” said Djokovic. “And playing on the centre court, for Schwartzman, will be a unique experience. He definitely has nothing to lose. I'm going to try to use my experience playing many matches on the centre court and get a win.”

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