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“He’s still playing really, really good on clay, and I didn’t expect any different,” Djokovic said. “Again, I’m not in his shoes and I don’t know how he physically feels. … I’m sure that’s going to give him a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, because that’s what he wanted. It doesn’t matter at what level and it’s great for tennis that he’s back _ there’s no question about it.”

After Djokovic won the Australian Open, attention turned to whether he can match his 2011 exploits, when he captured three major titles, had a 43-match winning streak and finished the year 70-6. The Serb said he was “in a strong position” to win more Grand Slam championships in 2013 and that he was “not hiding” the fact he wanted to win the French Open _ where his chances have improved because of the injury troubles of seven-time champion Nadal.

And in a warning to his rivals, he said he is in a better state of mind than he was a year ago.

“Mentally, I do feel a little bit more relieved than I was at the start of 2012,” Djokovic said. “Following up after 2011 was an extreme challenge for me _ mentally mostly _ because I still played really well, but I found myself for the first time in a position to be the No. 1 in the world and to defend Grand Slam titles _ three in a whole year.

“Right now, I’ve recuperated. I’ve learned my lesson; I’ve understood the experience that I went through, and I’m ready for new challenges.”