The Wimbledon champion was taken to the limit during his narrow victory over Tomas Berdych yesterday.
Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic admits he must improve if he is to win the ATP World Tour Finals after being taken to the limit by Tomas Berdych yesterday.
The Czech was outstanding, storming into a 4-0 lead in front of a packed o2 Arena and taking the first set before Djokovic fought back to level the match.
But Berdych failed to convert a match point and Djokovic forced the tie break where he triumphed to seal an unconvincing 3-6 6-3 7-6 victory.
“I need to step up a little bit,” said Djokovic. “I need to raise the level of performance in order to have a chance to go all the way.”
Djokovic had injury concerns coming into the tournament insists the problems are behind him.
“I haven’t felt any pain in my shoulder,” he said. “I’ve been feeling well on the court.
“But, look, maybe this is a good start to overcome such a test,” he added. “Hopefully the next match will be better.”
Berdych played some sublime tennis, reminiscent of his stunning victory over Roger Federer in the 2010 Wimbledon semi-final.
His powerful, pinpoint baseline strokes bewildered Djokovic as the sizeable and audible Czech contingent in the stands roared him on.
And in this kind of form, Berdych looks capable of going one step further on his Wimbledon final appearance, although he is coy on the prospect.
Berdych said: “To be talking about the Australian Open or anything in the next season is really far to go. I have no idea what to say now.
“I want to go as far as I can. If I’m going to keep playing even better than I did today, then I think there’s a chance.”
As they tussled at 5-5 in the final set, Berdych hit an unerring passing forehand winner with Djokovic rooted to the spot.
The Serbian could only stand with his arms outstretched, as if to say, ‘What can I do?’
Djokovic said: “I knew that my opponent tonight is an unpredictable player who has powerful ground strokes and a great serve.
“I think he made a lot of pressure on my serve, especially the second serve. He was stepping in, I went back. I was too passive.”
But in the end, Djokovic’s superiority told as he held his nerve to save a match point at 6-5 and took the set to a tie break where he won 7-3.
A dejected Berdych said: “How can I feel after a match like that? I’m feeling really disappointed, and that’s it.”
“I don’t know what I can take positive from this game. The first thing is definitely to forget it as quick as possible and be ready for Wednesday.”
It could have been different, though, had Berdych not dumped his forehand into the net with victory looming.
Djokovic said: “At this level, small details and a couple of points are deciding a winner. It could easily have gone the other way for him.
“I just tried to get one ball back more than he did. He made a mistake and I was back in the match.”
But with three of the opening round fixtures going to three sets, Berdych will know anything can happen.
Djokovic said: “You need to be on top of your game each match to win. You have opponents who are top eight in the world.
“I might have been favourite on paper, but I knew the chances are more or less the same for both of us because I haven’t been playing my best.
“You cannot underestimate anybody. That’s why this tournament is so important for all of us.”