However, the Serbian says that he is as hungry as ever to fight for more titles and produce his best tennis in the coming months despite the setback.
“My goal is to keep on playing tennis,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. “That’s the ultimate goal. For as long as I really feel like it and as long as I can play. As long as my body allows me, as long as the circumstances in my life as well, the people that surround me [and] support me.
“I’m still motivated and I’m still pissed off when I lose a match. I care about it. I care about winning every match, as anybody else on the Tour, regardless of the age. I’m actually glad that I’m feeling a lot of emotions every single day because it means that I really want to be part of this sport, part of the Tour.”
Vesely Stuns Djokovic, Whose No. 1 Reign Will End Monday
The 34-year-old has sat atop the tennis mountain for the past 132 weeks and a record-breaking 361 weeks in total. He was competing in his first tournament of the season in Dubai. The top seed has triumphed at the ATP 500 five times and entered his match against Czech qualifier Vesely off the back of victories against #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti and Russian Karen Khachanov.
But Djokovic was unable to find his best level against the World No. 123, praising the 28-year-old for his aggressive and resolute performance.
“Unfortunately, [it] wasn’t my day,” Djokovic added. “I congratulate Jiri. He played better. He just went for his shots. His serve was big. His whole game was big. When he needed to come up with the good shots, he did, putting a lot of pressure also on my service games. His backhand on this surface where it’s really fast and it stays low is really effective.”
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This season, Djokovic has also seen Spaniard Rafael Nadal overtake him in the Grand Slam race, with the 35-year-old capturing his record-breaking 21st major title at the Australian Open in January. It means Nadal leads the way over Djokovic and Roger Federer, who are both tied on 20 Grand Slam crowns.
Djokovic admitted that while he needs more matches to regain his best level, his body is in good enough shape to continue to compete at the very top.
“The more matches I play, the more comfortable I get on the court,” Djokovic added. “I need the match play. I didn’t have many matches at all last few months.
“I don’t look at the age really as a restricting factor for my career. I still feel great in terms of my body and the way it’s holding on, the way it’s recovering. It’s been serving me well, so to say. That’s something that obviously encourages me to keep going.”