By Mark Lamport-Stokes
INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - The French Open is the only grand slam title to have eluded Novak Djokovic and the steely-eyed Serb has adopted a philosophy of reverse psychology in a bid to claim the coveted crown at Roland Garros.
World number one Djokovic has twice been beaten in the French Open final and believes he can end his barren run on the clay surface by reining back any hint of self-imposed pressure or specific goal-setting.
"The difference in my approach to my goals and priorities between now and a couple of years ago is that I don't put too much pressure on myself," Djokovic said on Thursday at Indian Wells where he is seeking a fourth BNP Paribas Open title.
"I don't want to take away too much energy by spending time on thinking, 'Will I make it or not?' The French Open is the grand slam that I have never won but I have had a lot of good tournaments there.
"I have played a couple of times the finals and got always a step closer. I use these losses as a way to grow mentally, physically and emotionally and as a player in general to understand what I need to do better the next year."
Djokovic, who last month won a record fifth Australian Open title in the professional era to increase his career tally to eight grand slam crowns, feels he can only benefit from competing at the French Open with more personal freedom.
"This kind of approach allows me to enjoy my time there instead of going to the clay in Paris thinking, 'Will I make it this time or not?'," the 27-year-old Serb told reporters in the interview room at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
"Of course, the season starts much better for you if you win a grand slam in Australia and that was the case for me this year," Djokovic said, prompting loud roars of laughter.
"I have a strong wind at my back and a confidence that hopefully I can carry into these two large tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, and then take it from there."
Djokovic, the top seed at Indian Wells, will launch his bid for a fourth BNP Paribas Open title in the second round on Saturday.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)