Tired Djokovic bows out early
By Josh Katzowitz
Post staff reporter
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MASON, Ohio - The other day, somebody asked Roger Federer how close Novak Djokovic was to challenging Federer and Rafael Nadal for the top two tennis positions in the world.
The world's No. 1 player, speaking for the world's No. 2 player, said Djokovic - who's ranked No. 3 - had to earn success at Grand Slam events before he could be considered the elite of the elite.
He forgot to mention another barrier - which turned out to be the cause for Djokovic's downfall Wednesday.
Let Djokovic, who was coming off a sensational week while winning the Masters series event in Montreal, explain his predicament.
"I was playing 10 days there, and then I had this traveling day - basically, I didn't have a day off," said Djokovic, who fell to Carlos Moya 6-4, 6-1 in the second round of the Western & Southern Masters. "It's not easy. I still didn't get used to it. I'm still getting into this professional tennis by playing every tournament to the end."
The problem with playing a tournament until the end is - if you're playing back-to-back events, like all the top players here this week - your first match at the second site is always going to be difficult.
More than likely, you're facing a player who's had time to get used to the courts and the weather. Plus, you're the one who's tired.
Federer - who hasn't had success here the past three years when he's played in Canada the week before - knows all about it.
For instance, Moya, who beat David Nalbandian in the first round, looked extremely comfortable Wednesday and hit powerful serves and forehands.
Djokovic, meanwhile, looked slow and, at times, uninterested. Moya figured as much.
"I felt very confident on the court, and I knew I was going to have a good chance to beat him, given the conditions coming from winning in Montreal," Moya said. "He's just 20 years old, and I've been in his situation so I know what you think. I know how you feel. I knew it was going to be tough for him."
The two played evenly in the first set, but Moya managed to break Djokovic's serve in the third game and took the set. In the second set, though, Djokovic's fatigue was evident. He, in effect, was no match for Moya.
"I think he's still thinking about the great week he had in Montreal, beating the top three players in the world," Moya said. "I knew the beginning was going to be hard for him to get into the match. I knew I was going to have my chances there and I was going to have to take them. That's what I did. I was very prepared for this match and everything went the way I thought."
Djokovic didn't seem all that surprised either. He knows he still has much to learn in order to break into the territory Federer and Nadal occupy. Like how to prepare himself after a taxing tournament the week before.
"It's a matter of time," Djokovic said. "It's all a matter of experience. I'm not really worried. It's normal. It's natural and just takes time."
Moya agrees. When Moya - who will play Juan Martin Del Potro in the third round - reached No. 1 in 1999, he was a 22-year-old who had a tough time handling the exhaustion that comes with staying in tournaments until the end.
He said eventually you get used to the logistics.
"For everybody, it's difficult to win a tournament and go to the next one," Moya said. "Also the way he won the tournament. He beat Roddick, Federer, Nadal. It's normal. It's a Masters Series, and it's normal that, at the beginning when he comes here, it takes a while for him to get into the match. I knew it was very normal that this can happen to him, so I try to take advantage of that."