PARIS — Novak Djokovic is in commanding form and well poised to wrestle back the No. 1 ranking from longtime rival Rafael Nadal at the Paris Masters.
Heading into the Paris event, which started Monday, Djokovic was only 215 points behind Nadal at a tournament he has won a record four times, the last time in 2015. Nadal has never won here.
The two tennis greats have won a combined 31 Grand Slam titles, with Nadal ahead 17-14.
But Djokovic appears to be on an ever-upward curve while Nadal is tentatively returning from a right knee injury.
Djokovic has won four of the last five tournaments he has entered, a strong run including Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and most recently the Shanghai Masters.
“In both the U.S. Open and Shanghai, I’ve played as good as ever,” Djokovic said at a news conference in Paris.
“So I really enjoy tennis at the moment and enjoy competing. When you have a lot of confidence, you approach the practice sessions and the tournaments and the matches in a just completely different way.”
Djokovic feels he’s reaching the ultra-dominant level he was leading up to at the time of winning the French Open in 2016, which turned out to be his last Grand Slam title before a slump of two years without winning one.
In 2017, Djokovic’s level of play started dropping due to complications with an elbow injury.
In January, he finally underwent right elbow surgery and, by the time he reached the French Open in June, his ranking had dropped to No. 22.
“It was quite opposite extremes in terms of how I felt and how I played five months ago and today,” Djokovic said. “I do think that I’m playing at my best at the moment (now). I always feel like I can improve, but I feel like this is a very high level.”
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