MONTREAL (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic’s reign as world number one got off to a wild start as he scrambled to a 7-5 6-1 win over Russian Nikolai Davydenko at the Montreal Masters on Wednesday, improving his season record to a dazzling 49-1.
Back in action for the first time since his Wimbledon victory over Rafa Nadal, Djokovic’s competitive debut as world number one looked in danger of ending in disaster.
In near invincible form this season winning eight titles, Djokovic appeared suddenly vulnerable after a four week holiday, as the 30th ranked Russian recorded two early breaks to grab a 4-1 lead on the sluggish Serb.
But Davydenko would win only two more games as Djokovic shifted into top gear reeling off six straight service breaks to take the first set and jump out in front 4-0 in the second then hold serve to seal the victory as lightning crackled around the stadium.
“I’m just trying to handle it (being number one) the best possible way but on the other side trying to keep my life very simple, the way it was before,” Djokovic told reporters.
“Of course, the world is looking at me a bit differently. It carries a little bit more weight on your shoulders.
“I don’t want to think about negatives and worry about things that might happen because I have become number one: Will I keep it long enough? Will it come to my head? Will I struggle with emotions?
“I’ve become number one. I achieved my dreams. This is all that is going on in my head, all I’m thinking of, just enjoying the moment.”
Despite the early wobble, it was a promising start to the hard court campaign and the buildup to the U.S. Open for the big Serb, who has twice before reached the final at Flushing Meadows and will be favored to take the last step next month.
The big question hanging over the final grand slam is who can stop the Serbian juggernaut?
Roger Federer is the only man to beat Djokovic this season and has won at least one grand slam title every year since 2002.
But the Swiss has captured just one event this year and will be hard pressed to extend his streak in New York and add to his record of 16 grand slams.
Briton Andy Murray, the two-time defending champion in Canada, did not get his hard court season off to a promising start losing his opening match.
World number two Nadal beat Djokovic in last year’s U.S. Open final but the 24-year-old Serb has had the Spaniard’s number this season beating him five times in five meetings.
Up next for Djokovic is a possible third round clash with Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open winner who is looking very much like a real dangerman at Flushing Meadows.
After a season filled with injury woes, the Argentine has bounced back this year showing signs of reclaiming his grand slam winning form climbing from 484th in the world rankings back into the top 20.
“Del Potro, (Marin) Cilic, both of them tall players with big serves,” said Djokovic, looking ahead to his next match. “They’re both playing great, the best tennis on hard courts.
“The conditions here are a bit faster than maybe some other tournaments. I think in the favor of those two players.
“It’s going to be a tough one definitely.”