One does not see it happen too often in world tennis where the biggest names engage in practice sessions against one another. The sport is so competitive that players don’t want to let any strategies slip out. There were certainly no such concerns on show as the world No. 1 and Shanghai Rolex Masters titleholder Novak Djokovic and world No. 3 and US Open champion Stan Wawrinka enjoyed quite a work out against one another.
“There is certainly something different when you’re playing against, practicing with a top player, because the quality of the training is obviously very high,” Djokovic said. “I like always to train with Stan especially because we have a very friendly relationship and we get to train quite often, especially before big tournaments.”
The Shanghai Rolex Masters is Djokovic’s first event since the US Open final and his only tournament in Asia this year.
The articulate Serb revealed his priorities are no longer centered on titles at the majors or the No.1 ranking and with that he spoke of his motivation.
“The last three months were up and down a little bit with oscillations, but generally I didn’t find that kind of satisfaction on the court, which is the very reason and the source of my motivation to play the tennis,” Djokovic said.
He was however quick to dismiss speculation that his statements were a way to relieve pressure, especially with Andy Murray closing in on the no. 1 ranking.
“When I said I’m not interested only in winning and lifting trophies, that doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in that at all,” he said. “Of course when I get on the court I will do my best to win the match, as there is no change in that. But the shift of, I would say, the priority and the mindset towards tennis, career, towards my life, it’s different.”
When asked about how his new mindset might affect future performances, he said: “I don’t know what future brings. That’s not in my hands… the only way I can predict the future is to create the future. I don’t have anything to lose. That’s my mindset. I have only to gain.”
Wawrinka, meanwhile who won his third career major a month ago at the US Open, says he feels good coming into the Shanghai Rolex Masters: “So far I’m quite happy with the practice. I would say (the courts are) a little bit faster than last year, but in general I’m feeling good.”
He has twice reached the quarterfinals in Shanghai in six appearances, and spoke of how much he enjoys playing here.
“Always enjoy to come back,” Wawrinka said. “I think we have a chance that the tournament is doing amazing job first for the player, not only on-site but also off-site if we want to discover the city, if we want to go to nice restaurant. So I always enjoy my time here, for sure.”
Stan the Man was asked what he would hope for during the 2017 tennis year – he explained to see his good friend back playing again and healthy.
“For tennis in general, I would like to see that Roger will be back at the top with no injury. I think it’s always good for everybody when he’s playing,” he said.