Paris: Novak Djokovic already feels 'number one' after becoming a father last week and says his battle with Roger Federer for the year-end top global ranking is no more than a luxury problem.
The 27-year-old Serb comes to the Paris Masters, which began on Monday, as defending champion but his lead at the top of the ATP rankings has been slashed to less than 500 points as the charging Federer looks to snatch another impressive milestone in an already glorious career. With 2,500 points on offer at the year-ending tournaments in the French capital, closely followed by the World Tour Finals in London, both players have it all to play for.
However, the mild-mannered Djokovic says becoming a father has been the best moments of his life and while tennis is still a priority, it is now, not the only thing that counts. "Honestly, the way I feel right now, I feel like I'm already number one with becoming a father last week," Djokovic said on Monday, referring to his wife Jelena giving birth to a baby boy Stefan. "For me, this is the most important moment in my life.
At this stage, for the tennis, of course Roger is playing some great tennis, and he showed that before the US Open and then, of course, winning Shanghai and played a great match against me in the semi-finals and now winning Basel," he added ahead of his opening match against German threat Philipp Kohlschreiber on Tuesday. "So he's coming close in the rankings, and I'm sure that he's going to be very motivated to fight for number one, it's pretty much open.
"Of course it is, for both of us, the goal of number one, to finish the year as number one of the world. Of course it's a big objective. He has the Davis Cup final, but I'm sure that he would like to be number one as well."
Federer, fresh from his sixth win in Basel on Sunday and 82nd career ATP victory, is the form player on the Tour but a host of pretenders entertain their own hopes of lifting the title in Paris with an intriguing subplot set to develop as to who will book the final tickets to London. Six players are chasing the final places in the round-robin season-ending finale at the O2 Arena, which begins on November 9.
Djokovic, Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Maric Cilic, as US Open champion, are assured of their spots while world number three Rafael Nadal is out for the season with appendicitis. If Federer is the man to beat, and Djokovic world number one, Andy Murray, currently fifth in the Race to London, is again knocking on the top three door after a thrilling season-ending run.
The two-time Grand Slam winner saved five match points for the second time in less than a month on Sunday to defeat Spaniard Tommy Robredo and win the Valencia Open, his third title of the year. Murray now needs to reach the quarter-finals at Bercy to guarantee a seventh straight appearance in the English capital. "The other guys behind me will need to play extremely well in Paris to knock me out, so I've done everything I could," Murray said.
"I just kept fighting as hard as I could and it's going to stand me in good stead for the end of this year," added Murray. "I knew I had to win matches at the start of the tournament to get there and I've won some important ones. I've given myself a good opportunity and a good chance.
Japan's Kei Nishikori, Czech Republic number one Thomas Berdych and David Ferrer of Spain hold the remaining places for the eight-man line-up in London, but Canadian Milos Raonic and big-serving Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov can still gatecrash the party. The odds are stacked against them with Raonic needing to win his first Masters title to guarantee qualification while Dimitrov must at least reach the semi-finals to have a chance.