august 23, 2012 • 03:14 PM

Smiling Djokovic happy to avoid Murray in U.S. Open draw

2011 US Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia listens to speakers during the US Open tournament draw ceremony at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York August 23, 2012.
Foto: Lucas Jackson / Reuters In English

Defending champion Novak Djokovic could barely conceal his delight on Thursday after avoiding the elephant in the room - Olympic champion Andy Murray - in the draw for the U.S. Open.

The Serb, who will be chasing his sixth grand slam title and second of 2012, landed in the bottom half of the draw for the August 27-September 9 tournament in New York while Britain's Murray and top seed Roger Federer were placed in the top half.

When asked if he was happy to see Murray's name in the other half of the draw, ensuring the two cannot meet unless both reach the final of the year's last grand slam, Djokovic just smiled.

"It was really hard to try to bounce back from an emotional loss at the Olympics," Djokovic, who lost to Murray in the semi-finals at the London Games, said as he discussed his hopes for the fortnight at the draw ceremony.

"Every player has a look at the draw, in detail.

"But I think there are 128 very motivated players here so you can't take anything for granted, even in the early rounds, when you are favorite to win."

Barring any upsets, the highest seed Djokovic would face en route to a finals appearance would be fourth seed David Ferrer of Spain in the semi-finals.

With Rafa Nadal skipping the tournament with a nagging knee injury, Murray is the man both top seed Federer and second seed Djokovic wanted to avoid, given that the Briton's confidence is sky-high after his Olympic triumph earlier this month.

But Djokovic has won the past three hard-court grand slams and believes he is ready to win again.

"I am trying not to compare my performances this year with 2011," he said, having won three of the four grand slam titles last year. "But I have had a very good start to the hard court season again, winning in Canada and reaching the final in Cincinnati.

"My body feels good and right now I am healthy and fit. I am really happy to be back here where I have great memories and I am playing well."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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