INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Oozing confidence after making a sizzling 13-0 start to the year, Novak Djokovic looks every inch the same player who reigned supreme in the men’s game during his astonishingly successful 2011 season.
Though the Serbian world number one was reluctant to make any predictions about how his 2013 campaign may pan out, he sounded an ominous warning to his rivals on Friday while talking about his sensational early form.
“It feels the same (as it did in 2011) ... the way I started the year,” Djokovic told reporters at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where he will play his opening match of the BNP Paribas Open in the second round on Sunday.
“I have great memories from 2011. That was by far my most successful year in the career. But it’s very early still to say what’s going to happen, so I don’t want to predict anything.
“My mindset will stay the same, and that is to enjoy the moment, to be in the moment, to try to do my best in the present, take it step by step and then see how far I can go.”
In 2011, Djokovic won a career-best 10 ATP titles, including three grand slam crowns, after reaching 11 finals en route to a stunning 70-6 match record.
He won his first seven tournaments of the season while compiling a 41-match winning streak, the best run to start a year since John McEnroe’s 42 in 1984.
Fast forward two years and the dominant Djokovic has triumphed in his first two events, winning the Australian Open in January and the Dubai Championships last week, while extended his winning streak to 18 matches since October.
“So far so good,” the 25-year-old Serb said of his unbeaten run since Andy Murray defeated him in last year’s U.S. Open final.
“I couldn’t ask for a better start of the season, winning Australia and Dubai, playing on hard courts, which is my most successful and most preferable surface that suits my game the best.
“Obviously winning in Australia for the last couple of years gives me a strong sense of confidence which I carry into this tournament. I think that’s one of the big reasons why I tend to play my best in this period.”
Hardcourt specialist Djokovic has always enjoyed competing at Indian Wells, winning the title here in 2008 and 2011 after losing to Spaniard Rafa Nadal in the 2007 final.
“I won this tournament in the past and I like spending time here and in Miami these few weeks,” the Serb smiled. “Hard courts are my favorite surface. This is where I feel most comfortable and confident on the court.”
Djokovic expressed delight that his good friend and rival Nadal, also a double champion at Indian Wells, was back on the ATP Tour after being sidelined for seven months last year due to a left knee injury.
“It’s really great to see him back for our sport in general, for fans, for everyone who loves tennis because he’s such a popular and charismatic player,” said the Serb, a six-times grand slam champion.
“I have seen a few of his matches ... he’s still very impressive on clay, you know. Not much has changed. That’s his favorite surface. He’s the king of clay, he’s so comfortable playing there.”
Left-hander Nadal returned to the ATP circuit last month in South America where he competed in three relatively minor clay court events, winning two of them after reaching all three finals.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Nick Mulvenney