Novak not sweating record chase

Updated: 2016-10-13 07:00

By Agence France-Presse in Shanghai(China Daily)

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Djokovic puts pursuit of Federer's Grand Slam mark on back burner

A new-look Novak Djokovic said he had given up on chasing Roger Federer's record 17 Grand Slam titles as he made a winning return to the tennis circuit on Tuesday.

Djokovic, the formerly indomitable Serb who has steamrolled his rivals over the past two seasons, said he has undergone a radical rethink in the wake of recent setbacks.

The 29-year-old said he no longer saw protecting his world No 1 ranking, now under threat from Andy Murray, as his priority - or breaking Federer's all-time record.

The 12-time Grand Slam winner beat Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-3 at the Shanghai Masters in his first match back after skipping last week's China Open with an elbow injury.

"Right now, no," he said, when asked if surpassing Federer's all-time Slam record was still one of his goals. "I don't think about that at all.

"I don't think about any trophies or number one rankings, anything like that. It's completely different.

"It is there, because I play partly because I enjoy being successful and seeing the results of my work. But on the other hand, the record comes second."

Djokovic has been in a funk since completing a career grand slam - and a run of four straight major titles - at the French Open in June.

The Serb, who has admitted having "private issues", lost in Wimbledon's third round, and then failed to win a match at the Rio Olympics before finishing runner-up at the US Open.

'Wanted it too much'

He said he had a complete change of heart about his approach to tennis because the "must-win mindset ... is not working for me any more".

"I try to be in this moment and take things slowly, and, you know, I'm not rushing anywhere. I'm not in a need, you know, to achieve anything," he said.

"I feel like I have overcome that step. Right now it's about just, you know, following my gut, following my instinct, whatever I feel like doing.

"Just before I arrived at the Olympic Games, things were looking great. I was in great shape. I won at Toronto. You know, I was, as I can say, at the peak of my abilities.

"I was extremely motivated to do well in Rio, but I lost that equilibrium. I lost that balance, because I exaggerated with the way I pushed myself in that kind of preparation and I really wanted it too much, maybe."

The mental revamp is astonishing from a player who has long pushed himself to the limit in pursuit of perfection - but who didn't have to stretch himself against Italy's Fognini.

A lone break of serve was enough for Djokovic to win the first set and Fognini matched the Serb with strong baseline play until 3-3 in the second set.

But Fognini's serve deserted him as he double-faulted to hand over a break, and then again for three match points, before sealing his fate with his seventh and final double.

Djokovic gave the Italian a wry smile of sympathy as they shook hands.

The defending champion will play Grigor Dimitrov or Vasek Pospisil in the third round.

Chairman of the bored

Earlier, outspoken Australian Nick Kyrgios said he had to stifle yawns as he dispatched Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4 for his sixth win in a row.

Kyrgios said he was "bored" and tired after last week's exertions at the Japan Open, where he lifted the third trophy of his career on Sunday.

"I was just a little bit bored at times," he said, when asked why he wasn't his usual vocal self on court.

"I was feeling very tired today."

Juan Martin del Potro has also been in strong form, but his tournament was quickly over when he was dumped by Belgian seed David Goffin 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in just over two hours.

Bulgaria's Dimitrov beat French seed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-4 as he bounced back quickly from losing Sunday's China Open final to Andy Murray.

Germany's Alexander Zverev, 19, heightened his growing reputation when he beat eighth-seeded former US Open champion Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Meanwhile, Australia's Bernard Tomic said his season might be over after he retired with an abdominal problem while down 3-6, 3-0 against Roberto Bautista.

Nadal, Nishikori headline Fast4 exhibition event

Fourteen-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will team up with Japan's Kei Nishikori in a Fast4 exhibition in Sydney in January against Australia's Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, organizers said Wednesday.

The short-form format, now in its third year, features sets won by the first player to four games, no deuces and play continuing after lets on serve.

The event, on Jan 9, is billed as the Twenty20 of tennis, a reference to the fast and furious form of cricket which has proved a huge hit.

Nadal played the exhibition this year alongside Gael Monfils, with Kyrgios and Lleyton Hewitt representing Australia.

"I have played the format twice now and I think it's very exciting for both players and fans," the Spaniard said.

"It's very easy for the crowd to get involved in the match and it was a great atmosphere earlier this year."

Meanwhile, women's world No 1 Angelique Kerber announced she will play the Sydney International for the fifth year in a row from Jan 8-14, ahead of the Australian Open.