Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Murray's Mate Is Waiting for Nadal; Teenage Star Novak Djokovic Could Become a Brit, but All He's Thinking about Is Tackling the Master on Clay

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Murray's Mate Is Waiting for Nadal; Teenage Star Novak Djokovic Could Become a Brit, but All He's Thinking about Is Tackling the Master on Clay

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, the rising star British tennis officials want to adopt, faces the daunting task of halting Rafael Nadal's bid for a second successive French Open title in Paris tomorrow.

Djokovic, the 19-year-old Serbian and a good friend of Andy Murray, defeated French teenager Gael Monfils 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 in the fourth round at Roland Garros, exacting a sort of backhanded revenge on behalf of the British No2, who lost to Monfils in round one.

This link with Murray is one of the reasons why the Lawn Tennis Association discussed Djokovic's possible switch from Serbia during the recent Davis Cup tie between the countries in Glasgow.

Roger Draper, the new LTA chief executive, is ready to break the bank to make British tennis a world force and pulling the financial strings to make Djokovic "one of ours" would be one of the few cheques he could pay out with a guaranteed return.

As Djokovic proved while helping Serbia win in Glasgow, this youngster has serious ability. By shutting out the wildly patriotic French crowd willing Monfils to overcome a muscle injury, he showed his mental strength and admitted the deafening atmosphere actually helped overcome residual fatigue following his earlier wins over ninth seed Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Haas, the 23rd seed.

Djokovic, who has two equally talented younger brothers, is playing down the whole British link, conscious of the negative publicity it has already generated at home, where a split with Montenegro has raised political tensions.

"I get asked this question a lot," he said. "It's just rumours. The British people were very kind to us after the Davis Cup.

"We spoke to them but nothing serious really. We didn't have any serious conversation about a passport or anything like that.

"Everybody expected lots from me because I am a good player from a good generation, including Gael Monfils and Andy Murray, and now I have done something on the big stage. …

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