Djokovic says he's ready to take up clay challenge against Nadal
The Associated Press
Published: April 20, 2008
MONTE CARLO, Monaco: Having figured out how to win a Grand Slam title, Novak Djokovic is ready to challenge Rafael Nadal's supremacy on clay.
The Australian Open winner has "high expectations" for this season, including a second career major when the French Open starts late May at Roland Garros — the favored home of its three-time champion Nadal.
"The truth is Rafa (Nadal) plays his best game on clay," Djokovic said Sunday. "It's a challenge and I like challenges."
The third-ranked Djokovic already has two titles heading into this week's Monte Carlo Masters, one more than No. 1 Roger Federer. Nadal, who is ranked second, has yet to win a tournament in 2008.
Djokovic also leads both players overall in the ATP race, and is optimistic about his improving game.
So much so that the 20-year-old Serb thinks he has struck the right balance to be successful on clay — where a traditionally slower surface is less suited to his quick-fire game.
"I am more patient than in the past years," Djokovic told reporters in Monte Carlo. "You have to be mentally strong, it takes more time to create points and you have to wait for your chances.
"You also have to be physically very fit to do that. It's what I have been working on in the past two weeks."
Djokovic routed Federer in straight sets in the Australian Open semifinals in January.
"I think I am stronger than last year because I am more confident," said Djokovic, who also won at Indian Wells last month. "I have won a Grand Slam, even though it was not on clay."
Last year, Nadal dominated Djokovic in straight sets in the semifinals at the French Open.
Still, Djokovic is confident the Paris courts could yet give him the edge needed to end Nadal's dominance there.
"The French Open clay is faster, it suits my game better," Djokovic said.
Djokovic has no intention of toning down his high-energy game for a more measured approach on clay.
"If you change your game too much, it can turn against you," Djokovic said.