January 18, 2015 / 8:08 AM / in 3 years

Djokovic downplays concerns over illness, ready to go

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic pronounced himself fit and raring to go in search of his fifth Australian Open title on Sunday after overcoming a bout of illness that had prompted social media users to suggest he was in doubt for the tournament.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic hits a shot during a practice session on Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park January 18, 2015. The Australian Open tennis tournament begins on January 19. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Djokovic had cancelled a practice session and news conference on Saturday, which prompted social media to go into a tailspin, though the 27-year-old dispelled those rumours on Sunday.

“I had tough couple of days. But it’s all behind me now. I‘m ready for the Open,” he said after a practice session on Rod Laver Arena.

“Little bit with the flu and stomach. But I carried that already from the Middle East,” he added in reference to his withdrawal from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

“But now it’s good. It’s passed.”

The news the affable Serb had overcome his illness was a relief for the organisers, with the world number one a crowd favourite at Melbourne Park.

He has won three of the past four finals and lost to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka last year in an epic quarter-final that finished 9-7 in the fifth set.

Djokovic had already been singled out as the man to beat for the title this year with Rafa Nadal acknowledging the Plexicushion courts were the Serb’s favourite surface.

Second seed Roger Federer also said he was the favourite, though Djokovic was just as keen to squelch those expectations.

“I don’t think it’s nice to talk about the title ... when the tournament hasn’t started yet. There are so many players who are contenders to win,” he said.

”Considering the success that I had in my career in this tournament gives me enough reason and confidence to believe I can go far.

”(But) 120 players want to prove that they deserve to be in this tournament, and they have huge motivation to win against the top players.

“So I’ll take it one match at a time.”

He is scheduled to play Slovenian qualifier Aljaz Bedene in their first round match on Tuesday and while he had only seen him play once in Chennai, the Serb was not taking anything for granted.

”Obviously he’s going to be very motivated to perform well,“ he said. ”He’s got nothing to lose (like the other) lower-ranked players, younger players.

”That’s what makes them really dangerous in the opening rounds.

”That’s why I hope I can start with the right intensity, the way I was starting this tournament in previous years.

“If I do so, I have a good chance to win.”

Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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