Djokovic says ‘surreal’ to break Graf’s world rankings record

The Serb will spend his 378th week at the top of men’s tennis in Dubai, where he will play his first tournament since winning his 10th Australian Open title and a record-breaking 22nd Grand Slam title last month.

“I still want more achievements,” Djokovic told reporters in Dubai on Sunday.

“I am driven by goals. I really am as committed to the sport as anyone.

“Of course it’s kind of surreal to be world number one for so many weeks to take on Steffi Graf, who is one of the all-time greats of our sport, both men and women. It’s flattering to only be among those legendary names. I’m very proud of that.”

Djokovic is unbeaten in all 12 games he has played so far this season and says he has been pain-free for a week after recovering from a torn muscle in his left Achilles tendon which he sustained in Australia.

“I’m getting a hundred percent closer. I’m still not there in terms of the game itself, how I feel on the pitch. But the most important thing is that I’m not in pain. I have no obstacle to the way how I walk on the pitch,” explained the 35-year-old.

Djokovic is set to start his Dubai campaign on Tuesday against Czech qualifier Tomas Machac, where Daniil Medvedev, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Andy Murray are also expected.

Last year, Dubai hosted Djokovic’s first event of the season after he was expelled from Australia over his vaccination status.

A five-time champion in Dubai, he was defeated by Jiri Vesely in the quarterfinals.

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Murray, a week older than Djokovic and the Serb’s rival since his early teens, has had a stunning week in Doha, where he battled through four three-pointers before losing to Medvedev in the final.

It was a topic for Britain’s former world number one, who also put on heroic performances at the Australian Open last month.

“What’s happening now this year with his match points, he’s saved in literally every game he plays, the number of hours he’s put on the court since the start of the year, particularly in Australia, is just something that you have to admire and say ‘Chapeau’. because of everything he’s been through with his hip,” Djokovic said of Murray.

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“Great Guy Murray”

“You have to notice that he has an artificial hip and he moves the way he does. He is constantly trying to improve and get back to the highest level, which it seems he has done. He only goes up in the rankings. The level is better and better.

“I’m really happy for him because he’s a great guy who respects sport, works very, very hard. So committed that he deserves his success.”

Djokovic has also paid attention to the recent exploits of Chinese players on the ATP tour.

Among the top 100 are two Chinese men – Wu Yibing and Zhang Zhizhen – and teenager Shang Juncheng not far behind.

Djokovic said he always knew it was only a matter of time before China’s men climbed the rankings like Chinese women did on the WTA Tour.

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“I’m happy for China’s tennis. It’s important. It’s important that a country like China does well in men’s tennis too. I think it’s great news for us around the world as part of the tennis ecosystem,” he added.

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