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With Nadal and Federer sitting out, No 1 player looking for win
Novak Djokovic is looking to bounce back at the ATP Miami Masters after his 22-match win streak was ended last week at Indian Wells, and the absence of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer helps.
Nadal wants to rest his weary knees after a comeback that has seen him win three titles, including last Sunday's Indian Wells final, and 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer is skipping Miami as well as the clay-court season looms.
"It's the same for me," World No 1 Djokovic said. "I'm sure that even without them we will have a great tournament."
Djokovic will try to claim his fourth Miami title while Serena Williams attempts to take her sixth career crown at the $8.5 million ATP and WTA event that began on Tuesday and provides first-round byes to seeded players.
"I look forward to this tournament and I've had plenty of success," Djokovic said. "That gives me a reason to believe I can do well again."
Djokovic opens on Friday against Czech Lukas Rosol - who stunned Nadal at Wimbledon last year - while Williams will start on Thursday against Italy's Flavia Pennetta in the American's first event since reclaiming the world No 1 ranking.
"It feels good to be on top, especially after everything; working so hard and just really not expecting much, especially this far in my career," she said. "It's exciting to be there again."
Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro ended the Serb's win streak in an Indian Wells semifinal last Saturday. Djokovic had not lost a match since falling to American Sam Querrey at the Paris Masters on Oct 31.
His 17 victories this year included a fourth Australian Open title run and an ATP triumph in Dubai.
"It's not an easy thing, it's easier said than done really, to go out there and keep the focus going and try to stay grounded and fight for every point regardless of who is across the net," Djokovic said. "So that's why it's a big challenge. But it happens. I lost my match in Indian Wells, a very close match, almost three hours against a Grand Slam champion, an established top-10 player.
"A few points decided the win. I could have prevailed. But I didn't. That's sport. When you lose you try to understand what you did wrong so you can get better for the next one."
Djokovic was pleased at the US Open's announcement that it will boost prize money to $50 million by 2017 and change the schedule to finish with a Sunday final in 2015 after playing a Monday men's final this year and next.
"It's a positive step to see the prize money increase. It's a good response, and it's a reaction from the US Open towards the players' demands and desires," said Djokovic.
"It's a very positive step for players. It proves that players are more united than ever. It hasn't happened for ever or for many, many years that we have such increases. We just feel like we deserve it.
"Not just the top players, but a lot of players who are in the top 100, top 200, deserve to have a better living from this sport. This is a great move forward.
"Grand Slams are huge competitions. They are over two weeks long and there are a lot of benefits. Without players, those benefits are not possible. So I'm sure that a lot of players will be happy with this prize money increase."
And Djokovic, for one, will welcome a Sunday final after rain delays have pushed the past five finals to Monday and scheduling has ensured at least two more that will finish no earlier.
"Me, personally, I am not happy with a Monday final. But it is the way it is for the next two years," he said. "I think we have to accept it. Then after that it all goes back to normal, hopefully, for a Sunday final like every Grand Slam has."