SHANGHAI // The world No 3 Novak Djokovic believes his Masters Cup victory against Nikolay Davydenko on Tuesday has highlighted how far the Australian Open champion has progressed since his dismal debut at the event last year. The Serbian, 21, lost all three games in the round robin stage last year without winning a set, but 12 months later - and with his maiden grand slam under his belt - he secured the first semi-final spot after recording a 7-6, 0-6, 7-5 victory over the Russian world number five.
The triumph which came on the heels of Sunday's opening game success over Juan Martin del Potro secured Djokovic his place at the top of the gold group and ensures his participation in Saturday's semi-finals. He said: "Last year wasn't that much fun, but I took experience from that," he said. "But it's different this year because I'm coming in as a grand slam winner and a more mature player, stronger mentally and physically on the court.
"When you have more confidence and believe more in yourself, and of course, you're physically well-rested and fit for challenges, then things are going more smoothly." Off his win over Davydenko he added: "He is a really difficult opponent wherever you play him. He stays close on the baseline and likes to play aggressive. If he's in a good rhythm, then he's one of the toughest opponents on the tour.
"He was stepping in and using his opportunities, but I just wasn't myself in that second set and I lost that desire. "But then I served well in the important moments. That's all that matters." Djokovic takes on the Paris Masters champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga today in a dead rubber after the Frenchman lost in straight sets to Del Porto on Wednesday, ensuring that he has no chance of reaching the final stages of the tournament.
* PA Sport