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Monday, May 9, 2011

ESPN USA:Novak Djokovic poised to claim world No.1 ranking

A SERBIAN doctor with a background in Chinese and Indian medical practices has emerged as a threat to Rafael Nadal's reign as the world's No.1 tennis player.
Novak Djokovic's transformation from pretender to contender can be traced directly to Dr Igor Cetojevic, who last year discovered the dual Australian Open champion Djokovic has a gluten allergy.
Djokovic cut some of his favourite foods - including pizza and pasta - from his diet and now is poised to take Nadal's crown.
With Nadal having to defend victories from last season at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open - a massive 6000 rankings points - it could happen within weeks.
Djokovic yesterday revelled in his third consecutive win against Nadal, inflicting the Spaniard's first claycourt defeat in the Madrid Masters final and landing the sixth title of his unbeaten year.
Djokovic's 7-5 6-4 victory not only breathed fresh life into the French Open but also had Andre Agassi's former coach Brad Gilbert describing the Serb's backhand as the best since Agassi's.
"Djoker's backhand is one off the charts right now. He can do it all with that shot," Gilbert tweeted.
"The guy leans on his backhand like nobody - a la Andre. The man is clearly on his way to being No.1 in the world."
Djokovic is the $4 second favourite for the French Open behind Nadal ($1.50). Roger Federer has blown out to $11.
Djokovic is unbeaten in 32 matches this season and is closing on John McEnroe's record of 42-0, set in 1984.
Cetojevic travelled with the previously sickly Djokovic to Melbourne for the Australian Open, helping him further distance himself from scorn as a player prone to retiring when the battle was too fierce.
The medico studied Chinese traditional medicine and also holds a diploma from the Indian Institute of Magnotherapy in New Delhi.
But most telling of all was Cetojevic's discovery eight months ago that Djokovic's on-court struggles were linked to his diet.
"He's done a great job in changing my diet after we established I am allergic to some food ingredients like gluten," Djokovic said.
"It means I can't eat stuff like pizza, pasta and bread. I have lost some weight but it's only helped me because my movement is much sharper now and I feel great physically.
"A lot of people have been guessing and speculating what the secret formula of my good form was, but there is no secret. It's just that all the pieces have fallen into place after years of hard work and we are now reaping the rewards.
"I have also matured as a player and a person. I feel more confident and more consistent than ever because I am capable of holding my own against the world's best players under any circumstances.
"That wasn't the case earlier. Whenever I needed to be consistent against Federer and Nadal in the latter stages of grand slam events I was unable to stay psychologically balanced and confident."
Djokovic's run of 34 straight wins since Serbia's Davis Cup triumph in December is the eighth best of all time.
Nadal made no excuses.
"I came up against a great player. Obviously he's having a monster year," Nadal said. "He was better, you have to accept that."
Nadal also lost to Djokovic in the finals at Miami and Indian Wells this year.
Nadal's previous defeat on clay was nearly two years ago against Robin Soderling at the French Open. He had won six titles on clay since, and this was only his seventh loss on the surface in 196 matches since 2005.
Djokovic spent most of the past few seasons as the world No.3, but has not looked back after starting the year by winning the Australian Open.
"I'm happy I can play the best tennis when I need to and maybe that was lacking a lot in the past," Djokovic said.
"Maybe that's what was missing against Rafa and Roger in the past tournaments."
Nadal said the battle to hold the No.1 ranking was over.
"The No.1 ranking is not in danger. It's finished," he said.
"Let's not lie to ourselves. That's the reality.
"Nobody likes to lose. I have to see what's missing and working with a cool, open mind to decipher things and find the solutions, to try to do a little better next time."

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