Confident Novak Djokovic on Sunday was counting down to his start at the Dubai Tennis Championships confident of maintaining the devastating form which has left him as the dominating force in tennis for the past year.
The world number one will begin at the Aviation Club in the first round against Spain’s Tommy Robredo, and the 28-year-old Serb’s mental and physical level could not be at a much higher pitch.
After beating Andy Murray for a sixth Australian Open trophy three weeks ago, the family man put down his racquet for two weeks, spending time with his wife and young son.
“It’s important to balance well to recharge and gain freshness and continue playing on high level,” said Djokovic. “I’ve done it this way for the past five or six years, taking a pause after the Australian Open and returning for Dubai.
“I had time to regroup for the next three or four months coming up on hardcourt and clay when there is very little free time.
“I’ve played a lot of tennis from the start of pre-season training through the Australian Open final. I needed to cool off a little bit and do something else.
“Being a father and husband is also a lot of work, but it is also a lot of pleasure.”
The winner of 11 titles in 2011 – his only major disappointment was losing the French Open final to Dubai second seed Stan Wawrinka – is not surprised by his continuing high level on court.
“I expect a lot from myself, I also put in a lot of dedication to get the results that I’m getting. I want to win every match I play, I feel I can beat any player on any surface.
“With the results I’m having, I have to be optimistic. I try not to be over-confident, I have respect for the other players, I realise that I’m not the only one who wants to be the best in the world.”
Wawrinka, who last played Dubai in 2008 and has not won a match in two appearances, is determined to try and remedy that as he faces a first-round test against difficult Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky.
The reigning French Open champion arrived in the emirate late Saturday from Marseille and already has a practise session in the hot conditions in hand.
The 30-year-old Swiss is on his own this week, with coach Magnus Norman looking on from afar in Sweden.
Wawrinka said he made a Dubai return just to shake up his playing calendar a bit.
“It’s been many years since I’ve played here,” said the two-time Grand Slam champion. “I wanted to change things. A few years ago I went to South America to play on clay.
“Mentally it’s important to see some new events. After so long away, it seems like a new tournament, That gives good energy.”