PARIS (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic has hailed his climb back to the top of men's tennis, which will see him return to world No.1 spot next week, as a "phenomenal achievement."
The 14-time grand slam winner said on Thursday he was happy and proud to have reached the summit of the game for a fourth separate spell, but reckoned he had no time to properly reflect on it while he was seeking another triumph at the Paris Masters.
Djokovic's return to No.1 when the new ATP rankings are released next Monday was sealed on Wednesday when the current holder of that accolade, Rafa Nadal, had to pull out of the Paris event with an abdominal injury.
It marked the culmination of a dizzying ascent by the Serb, who had slumped to No.22 in the rankings in mid-June but subsequently won grand slams at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open as well as Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai.
If he wins in Paris, he will equal Nadal's record of 33 Masters titles and he can also extend his record number of triumphs at the French capital's indoor event to five.
"Reflecting on what I've been through in the last year, it's quite a phenomenal achievement. And, of course, I'm very, very happy and proud about it," said Djokovic.
"I always believe in myself but, five months ago, if you'd told me I would be back to number one so quickly, it was highly improbable considering my ranking and the way I played and felt on the court. It's a great journey that I've had.
"But I haven't been really reflecting on that and I haven't been really focusing on that too much because it's the middle of the week.
"I guess it will be different when I finish this tournament and hopefully the year-end ranking stays the same."
The prized end-of-year No.1 accolade is one Djokovic has earned on four separate occasions, just like Nadal, who could still be back in London in less than a fortnight to challenge him again for the top spot at the end-of-season ATP finals.
"I'm obviously not happy to see Rafa being injured and pulling out from the tournament in this final race for top rankings," said Djokovic. "But it's not the end of the season, so I can't be too ecstatic about it."
(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Pritha Sarkar)