Djokovic not rushing to judgment in Sharapova failed drug test

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Novak Djokovic's streak of 17 consecutive tournament finals ended in Dubai two weeks ago when he was forced to retire in the quarterfinal round with an eye infection.

But like every other top player this week, the questions directed at him weren't focused on the state of his game or health but rather Maria Sharapova's positive drug test for meldonium.

"Well, it's been the talk of the tennis world for the last couple of days," Djokovic said.

Djokovic talked about Sharapova from two perspectives at his news conference Friday. First, as a friend, he called Sharapova "courageous" and "brave" for publicly taking responsibility for testing positive. Secondly, as a player concerned about the sport, he said, "If she was caught to be positive on the doping for a certain substance, then there should be certain kind of consequences for that."

Most players asked about this topic here said they personally check all updates from WADA on banned substances, with a few, like Rafael Nadal, saying they rely on their support team to do so. Djokovic said he doesn't read all the email alerts from WADA but that his team keeps careful track.

He also noted the ATP should be more involved in informing players. On the one hand, according to Djokovic, the authorities can say that if a player was informed once, it's not their fault if the player didn't check emails or thoroughly go over the changes.

"But on the other side, we live a very busy life and there is a lot happening," Djokovic continued. "I think at least what we can do is to have this double kind of confirmation of the change also from ATP side.

"Again, I'm trying to understand both sides."

Djokovic said he had never heard of meldonium. The player who attributes much of his success to a gluten-free diet also said he doesn't believe medications always help performance anyway.

"I don't believe in that kind of short-term process," he said. "I believe in long-term balance and harmonious health and well-being that is achieved from different aspects. I wouldn't say that there is a magic potion or elixir that can make you feel better."

Fortunately Djokovic was also asked questions about his tennis.

After retiring in Dubai with an eye infection, Djokovic played two matches in Davis Cup against Kazakhstan last week in Belgrade, Serbia, needing five sets to beat Mikhail Kukushkin in the opener.

"It was not physically very easy those three days," Djokovic said.

Having received a first-round bye here, Djokovic plays the winner of the Bjorn Fratangelo-Teymuraz Gabashvili match in the second round Sunday.

Asked how he was feeling, Djokovic said, "I'm just glad I don't wear sunglasses while talking to you guys, which was the case after the match in Dubai.

"It was a couple of not easy weeks for me health-wise, but it was due to a lot going on the court and off the court that caused maybe a weaker immune system that was more prone to those kind of infections. This was the first time honestly in my life to have some kind of an issue with an eye.

"But all in all, I feel good. I feel already adjusted to the time zone of the West Coast. I have been here for already several days. You know, going back to normal. Hopefully I will be able to play at my best from the beginning."

Djokovic has won Indian Wells four times, including the past two years. Given his play over the past year, he is the favorite to win for a record fifth time.

"The conditions are pretty suitable to my style of the game," he said. "I like to have a little bit more time to construct the point. The game is based on the baseline. The speed of the court, the surface; I feel comfortable on the court. Especially in the afternoon, night matches, when it's a bit slower. The ball bounces high as well. I grew up on clay. I grew up with a high bounce. I feel comfortable playing on these courts."

He called this tournament "just below" the Grand Slams in importance.

"My thinking and my approach is not that I have to win this, I'm supposed to win this, but that I'm going to win this," Djokovic said. "Then I believe in myself and I carry that confidence, and that has brought me to where I am at this moment.''