Djokovic warms to rivalries

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The Independent Online

When Andy Murray had his first practice session here on Monday the temperature hit a scorching 43C – the city went on to experience its hottest night for 108 years – but in classic Melbourne style it had dropped yesterday to a distinctly cool 20C. Similarly mild conditions are forecast for the start of the Australian Open next week, but Novak Djokovic is among those predicting increasingly hot competition on the courts.

Until Juan Martin del Potro won last year's US Open, all but one of the previous 18 Grand Slam men's singles titles had been won by Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. However, Djokovic believes that the competition at the first Grand Slam event of the season will be hotter than it has been for years. "The top of men's tennis has more players that are able to win the big events," he said here yesterday. "It's definitely great for the sport because the attention doesn't go only to two players."

Djokovic rediscovered his own form at the end of last season and played so many matches that he decided it would be better not to take part in any warm-up tournaments this year other than the Kooyong Classic exhibition event here, in which he beat Tommy Haas in his first match yesterday.

"Then you have Del Potro, who has already won a Slam, and Murray, who has amazing quality and is yet to win one," Djokovic said. "[Nikolay] Davydenko is also underestimated too much as a player." Del Potro also made his first appearance of the season here yesterday, beating Ivan Ljubicic. Murray was due to play a one-off exhibition match against Sam Querrey today.

Six British players are here trying to join Murray, Elena Baltacha and Katie O'Brien in the main draw through qualifying. Alex Bogdanovic, James Ward and Dan Evans all won their first-round matches yesterday. Laura Robson, Naomi Cavaday and Mel South were due to play their first matches today.

*Djokovic revealed yesterday that the ATP is to discuss a proposed "World Cup" which might replace the Davis Cup. The tournament would be held every two years over 10 days and involve 32 teams who would be forced to substitute players during matches.

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