Djokovic answers critics with Paris win

BY foxsports • November 9, 2011

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic looked fit and keen Wednesday as he won his first match at the BNP Paribas Masters.

Djokovic defeated Croatia's Ivan Dodig, one of the year's most improved players, 6-4, 6-3.

By walking on court, Djokovic saved himself a $1.6 million forfeit under ATP rules because he would have missed two Masters 1000 series events in 2011 had he withdrawn. Was that a motivation?

"Yeah, yeah," Djokovic replied sarcastically. "It's really funny, you know, for me to see people coming up with that story. I even heard I would get on court and play a game just to get this money. I mean, this is ridiculous.

"Look, we are all athletes. This is our job. I came here because I want to compete. I want to play a tournament to know if I am physically good enough, in good enough condition to be competing. If not, I will not compete. It's as simple as that. There is nothing else that can affect my decision."

Believe him? The cynics won't. But it would be doing this highly professional athlete an injustice to suggest that he would risk his health for a dollar — even 1.6 million of them. Some players might, but not those superstars who enjoy the Serb's new-found riches.

Djokovic has earned $10,703,313 from prize money alone this year, pushing his career prize money total to $30,966,269. And, after the incredible year he has enjoyed — three Grand Slam event titles and seven others on the ATP tour — the endorsements are flooding in.

Doubts over Djokovic's participation arose after he was beaten 6-0 in the third set by Kei Nishikori in the semifinal at Basel last week, a result that, obviously, was affected by a shoulder injury. He went home to Monte Carlo and fueled speculation by not turning up in Paris until Tuesday afternoon.

"I've already played a couple of weeks indoors, so I didn't really need to come here early," he said. "But I really wanted to come. I like playing in Bercy. It's one of the most entertaining indoor tournaments, and I want to play well here. I want to get as far as possible and then go to London (for the ATP Finals), which is the most important tournament at this time of year for us."

Next up for Djokovic: an awkward match against his Davis Cup teammate Viktor Troicki. Djokovic looked in good enough shape Wednesday to win that one, but Troicki won't be doing him any favors and will sniff a chance to put one over his nation's hero.

Earlier, Andy Murray came through with no alarms 6-2, 6-4 against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, extending his winning streak to 16 matches.

There was no sign of the back problem that forced Murray to withdraw from Basel, and Chardy was impressed. "He's playing the right shots," Chardy said. "He's everywhere."

Murray appeared to move freely but was not satisfied.

"I'd like to move better," he said. "For me, there's more to moving than just getting to balls. It's how you use your feet in between shots and the position you get yourself into even on easy balls. I could have gotten into a better position quite a few times, so look to do that tomorrow."

That will be against Andy Roddick, who ran into Murray at his very best when they met on grass at the Queen's Club, just before Wimbledon.

"Andy's a very, very good competitor so he always makes it tough," said the Scot. "You have to be patient against him and try and find a way to get into his service games."

Roger Federer, who, like Murray, has never won this particular ATP Masters title, brought his Basel form to Paris and brushed past Adrian Mannarino of France 6-2, 6-3. John Isner chalked up a solid win over Russia's Igor Kunitsyn 6-4, 6-4.

Mardy Fish was more than solid. On the little No 1 court in front of a handful of spectators, the highest-ranked American blasted Florian Mayer off court 6-1, 6-2 despite the fact the court was playing much slower than he would have liked.

“I wasn’t here last year, but I heard it was really fast,” he said. “Now, it’s slow again and it’s really frustrating for someone who likes to get in and volley.”

No reason to be frustrated by his performance, however, especially as there was more good news from others courts. Nicolas Almagro, the Spaniard who was Fish’s closes challenger for the eighth spot in London, lost to Italy’s Andreas Seppi in straight sets 6-3, 7-5. Then, in the surprise of the day, Gael Monfils, a finalist here for the past two years, went down to the Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4.

That puts both Almagro and Monfils out of the race for London, leaving only Janko Tipsarevic and Gilles Simon for Fish to worry about. And both would have to win the tournament to have any chance of overtaking him.

“It’s in my control,” Fish said. “I’m human, I’ve been checking the ranking. It would be a weight off my shoulders, for sure, just to get there and know I’m going to be in because it’s been pretty stressful the past few weeks clicking on and making sure no one played at, like, 2 a.m. while I was sleeping, even though I knew they didn’t. It would be a relief and very exciting.”

Late in the evening, it got better for Fish when Simon eliminated himself from contention by suffering a surprisingly decisive 6-4, 6-0 defeat at the hands of the Argentine Juan Monaco. Only Tipsarevic, who plays No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych on Thursday, can now overtake Fish in the No. 8 spot.

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