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Joko tests his ankle, may skip tourney

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MONACO -- Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is unsure whether he will play at the Monte Carlo Masters this week, even though he is optimistic his right-ankle injury is healing fast.

The Serb twisted his ankle last Sunday on Davis Cup quarter-final duty against the United States. Tests showed the damage is not as serious as he feared and he has been training with his coach for the past three days ahead of his scheduled second-round match Wednesday.

But Djokovic, who lost to eight-time champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets in last year's final, will not take any risks.

"I can't 100 per cent guarantee that I'll be on the court on Wednesday," Djokovic said Sunday. "I still have to be realistic and see if on some practices in the next few days I push myself to the limit, if I'm going to have any discomfort."

Djokovic will only play if he thinks he can challenge properly.

"It's a very strong tournament and I don't think there is any room for compromise," he said. "To compete at such a high level I need to be at 100 per cent. I know there is a lot of people who expect me to be there and want me to be there -- I want myself to be there more than anybody."

He was boosted by test results, having initially feared his clay-court season would be seriously damaged leading up the French Open, which begins next month.

"Any bigger damage could indicate a longer period of recovery and no tennis," he said. "But being on the court the last three days for me is already a great sign."

He potentially faces either Mikhail Youzhny or Daniel Gimeno-Traver on Wednesday, and then a possible quarter-final against fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.

"I'll decide on Tuesday at the latest," he said.

Djokovic was hurt during his win against Sam Querrey as he lifted Serbia to an insurmountable 3-1 lead.

Having led Serbia to victory in 2010, Djokovic is fully committed to the Davis Cup but thinks the scheduling and format must change.

"This is the only official team competition we have in sport and that is the reason why it has a unique place in our career," he said. "Unfortunately, it comes at a very bad timing. Right after Australia, right after U.S. Open, right after Miami. It comes after a very long period of tournaments, and most of the top players reach the final stages of those tournaments."

Djokovic thinks a set period of the year should be cleared for it.

"One of my ideas is to have two weeks, say once per year, or once every two years at least, for the world group, that can gather 16 teams," he said. "Then everybody competes, you know, during those two weeks and then you have the final four or something like that."

Nadal, meanwhile, is bidding for his ninth straight Monte Carlo title.

The Spaniard has reached four consecutive finals since returning from a seven-month injury layoff, winning three. Seeded third, Nadal has a 44-1 record at Monte Carlo, winning 42 consecutive matches and has not lost here since a third-round defeat to Guillermo Coria in 2003. He missed the 2004 tournament through injury.


-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2013 C13

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