TORONTO -- Novak Djokovic arrived at the Rogers Cup tired and disappointed after missing out on a medal at the Olympics. But with barely a couple of days to adjust to a new time zone and new surface, he knew exactly what he had to do.
"Focus on your movement," he said. "Everything starts and ends in the legs."
Djokovic was speaking to Canadian television shortly after lifting the trophy, so the plan had clearly paid off. The Serb managed to make the transition from Olympic grass to hard courts more effectively than any of his rivals last week, making a strong statement about his chances of defending the U.S. Open title.
It's always been easier for Djokovic to get his footing on hard courts than anywhere else. He can run and plant and even slide with confidence, giving his game a little extra explosiveness.
Even as the week began, he talked about the appeal of returning to his "favorite surface" after a recent string of final and semifinal losses. He ended it with his first title since he left the hard courts in March, at the Sony Open in Miami.
Djokovic was particularly pleased that he had been able to use his Olympic losses as fuel.
"I'm very happy to be in this position. Truly did not expect myself to win this tournament after the emotional losses in Olympic Games. I really took it hard. I tried to bounce back and recover," he told reporters in Toronto after winning the final.
"After I was finished with the Olympic Games, I was sitting down with my team and trying to figure out what is the best solution and next step and if I should play the whole hard court season or not.
"I was never in doubt of coming here. I really wanted to come. The two losses that I had in three days in Olympic Games gave me even more desire to come here and perform my best and try to win a title."
He faced other challenges during the tournament, with rain playing havoc with the schedule. Djokovic played two matches Friday, the second a three-setter against Tommy Haas on a non-stadium court late in the evening. During the match, he appeared upset by some jeering from fans in the packed stands. His semifinal against Janko Tipsarevic was interrupted by rain Saturday, and Djokovic was frustrated by the amount of time it took to dry the court afterward, further extending a match that finished close to midnight.
But it all ended in smiles with a convincing 6-3, 6-2 win against Richard Gasquet in the final. The result meant Djokovic defended his title in Toronto, and he was able to maintain the big four's grip on all the big events since 2010, deflecting Murray's third-round pullout.
Coming into the tournament, he had faced all kinds of questions about his recent lackluster form and rumored personal problems, which he did not deny when questioned. "I prefer not speaking about my personal problems. Everybody has one, so it's normal," he said.
Djokovic was also without regular coach Marian Vajda, who will not rejoin him until the U.S. Open.
With the win, he's firmly signaled he's playing well again and has a chance to grab No. 1 back from Roger Federer at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati this week. Playing for a third full week in a row may be a little too much to ask. But with the firm grip of hard-court underneath, at least he's off and running again.
A roller-coaster week for the Bryans
Djokovic and doubles bronze medalist Gasquet weren't the only ones to successfully shake off Olympic hangover last week. Doubles gold medalists Bob and Mike Bryan took the title in Toronto as well, saving a match point to defeat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in a tiebreaker.
"Maybe we're still riding high from the Olympics and we feel good," Mike Bryan. "We always play better when we're happy. Right now we feel like even though it gets sticky and tough, we've been winning all the big points for the last couple weeks."
But even for the legendary doubles duo, the transition wasn't easy. The rain hit the doubles event particularly hard, forcing matches to be moved indoors Thursday and the semifinals and final to be played on the grounds Sunday.
"I think the toughest match of the week was the first match, because we went from the Centre Court at Wimbledon, seeing the flag go up and being on the podium, to playing at an indoor club in the middle of a long row of courts, no fans, bad lighting, bad bounces. It was a heroic effort to keep our mind together," Bob Bryan said.
"We've never won a tournament in two days. We played two doubleheaders, which is wild. To win a tournament in two days is something unique."
Fish nursing injury
After losing in the semifinals in Toronto, John Isner pulled out of Cincinnati with a back injury, leaving Mardy Fish as the top American in the draw. But Fish isn't at full strength either, still nursing an ankle injury he suffered in Los Angeles while trying to avoid running into a net post.
"It's not going to feel great until I give it some rest," said Fish. "So I just keep pushing through it. We do treatment with it every day, that's all we can do.
"But it doesn't necessarily hamper my movement at all, it just doesn't feel good."
After taking eight days off, Fish reached the semifinals in Washington and the quarterfinals in Toronto, but he feels he's not at peak fitness after fading during his second match of the day in Toronto on Friday.
It's the latest in a run of physical problems that Fish has suffered recently, interrupting his momentum since he began his surge in 2010. He was diagnosed with a thyroid problem early last year and had a heart scare after Miami this year that required surgery.
He's not planning to play during the week between Cincinnati and the U.S. Open. "But there's not much time to rest," he said. "A week before the U.S. Open, you usually want to train and I'll try to use that to get my fitness back."
Andy Roddick is also scheduled to make his return in Cincinnati after his latest injury, an arm problem.