No excuses from gracious Djokovic as Murray nears number one

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Novak Djokovic conceded he deserved to lose to Marin Cilic at the Paris Masters and again offered gracious praise to Andy Murray, who is now just one win away from dethroning the Serbian as world number one.

Djokovic has topped the rankings for 122 consecutive weeks since July 7, 2014, but will slip to number two should Murray reach his fourth-straight ATP Tour final on Saturday.

The Briton's fate was placed in his own hands when Djokovic suffered a 6-4 7-6 (7-2) defeat against Cilic, who had not won in 14 previous meetings with the 12-time grand slam champion.

"Credit to Marin and congratulations - he definitely played better today and deserved to win," said a magnanimous Djokovic in his post-match news conference.

"I wasn't on the level that I could have been on, obviously - there were things that I could have done better.

"Just in important moments, I wasn't able to deliver and he is a deserved winner."

Prior to this week's Masters 1000 event, Djokovic hailed Murray's efforts in moving into contention for the number-one ranking.

On Friday, Djokovic added: "Undoubtedly [I have] much respect for what he has done. To see how he has raised his level in the last 12 months is quite extraordinary.

"All I can say is that he is deservedly in the position he is in at the moment."

The current number one completed a career Grand Slam with victory at the French Open in 2016, his fifth success in six majors.

However, Djokovic has since struggled to reach such heights, enabling an in-form Murray to close in.

"I have to get first of all to that state of mind where I am able to perform as well as I want to, match after match. And I was not able to find that level for the last couple of months," Djokovic reasoned.

"A lot of emotions went through my mind and body in the last two years with the things that I was blessed to achieve and the career Grand Slam this year. But it took a lot out of me and it has put some things in perspective and obviously raised some questions in which direction I want to go to.

"I'm in the process at the moment and it's going to obviously take some time really for me to redefine all these things. But I'm still here and I feel like I'm on the right path, I'm in a better state of mind than I was some time ago."