By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic intends to come out fighting at next week's ATP World Tour Finals and prove that rumors of his decline have been grossly exaggerated.
It seems a long time ago now that the all-conquering Serb was being tipped for a calendar-year grand slam, having won the Australian and French Open titles.
Andy Murray was his victim in both those finals but last week the Scot evicted Djokovic from the ATP's world number one spot that he had jealously guarded for more than two years.
Since his long-awaited first Roland Garros title in June, Djokovic has suffered some crushing blows; losing to Sam Querrey in the third round at Wimbledon, exiting the Rio Olympics in the first round and then being trumped by Stan Wawrinka in the U.S. Open final.
He has not won a title since July and a first career loss to Marin Cilic in last week's Paris Masters opened the door for a hungry Murray to steam through to the summit for the first time.
Niggling injuries have not helped Djokovic while rumors have abounded of emotional burnout.
The 29-year-old admitted on Friday that his early-season exploits had taken a toll, but said he was determined to end the year on a high and claim a fifth consecutive Tour Finals title.
"I'm here in London to crown this year with the best possible result," Djokovic told reporters on Friday.
"I didn't get to recover fast after the French Open to compete on the highest level. I had to dig deep and take some time to reflect because it was an incredible achievement. Djokovic
"It took a bit of time to get back on track but all in all it was a very good year."
Djokovic, who has spent a total of 223 weeks as world number one during his career, can finish the year number one for the fifth time in the past six seasons if he wins in London.
He starts 405 points behind Murray who arrives on the back of a 19-match winning streak.
"I've had an amazing last four years at the O2 Arena. I'm hoping I can carry on with those great results," said the 12-times grand slam champion.
"I still feel I have a lot of gas in the tank, a lot of years ahead of me. My mind is very positive to this sport."
Djokovic's hopes of climbing back above home favorite Murray have been helped by him being placed in the easier group. He starts on Sunday against debutant Dominic Thiem and also plays French first-timer Gael Monfils and Milos Raonic.
Murray must contend with U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Monday's opponent Marin Cilic, but whatever happens Djokovic knows their battle for supremacy will continue in 2017.
"Looking at his qualities and commitment to the sport there is a good chance he can play at this level for a long time," Djokovic said.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)