Tennis legend Rafael Nadal believes that Novak Djokovic is still capable of completing a calendar year Grand Slam, despite crashing out in fourth place at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Djokovic had hoped to become the first man ever to win all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold in the same year.
But it was not to be for the world number one, who ended his singles campaign at Tokyo 2020 without a medal after suffering a 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 defeat to Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta in the third-place match, who took bronze.
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The Serbian could yet finish 2021 with a quartet of majors, the first man to complete this feat since Rod Laver in 1969. Some have questioned as to whether this would be possible after he admitted to suffering from “more than one” injury.
However, Nadal trusts that Djokovic will reach his goal.
“He already won three. So when you win three, you can win four, without a doubt, no?" he told a press conference before playing the Citi Open in Washington DC.
He did 75% of the way. He going to be playing on hard court, probably his best surface. So why not?
“Of course, [it] is something difficult. Going to be [other] guys that want to achieve the last slam of the season.
“He's one of the clear favourites, probably the most favourite player to achieve that.
“What he achieved this year is something, well, amazing. Let's see. I don't know. I definitely believe that he can do it, without a doubt.”
The Spanish tennis star has suffered from injuries of his own this year, having not competed since Roland Garros due to a foot injury that kept him off the court for 20 days, meaning he missed both Wimbledon and the Olympics.
He returned to practice slowly, beginning with only 30 minutes and then built himself up to a return in Washington.
Reflecting on the schedule he has followed this year, Nadal said: “My body decided for myself, of course.
If I had to choose, I will never miss Wimbledon and Olympics. But I was not able to compete in these events after the clay court season.
“I had some issues in my foot, so I had to stop playing tennis for around 20 days, not touching a racquet for 20 days.
“I started slowly, practicing half an hour, then little bit more. So I went through the whole process.
“When I see the calendar, my goal was to be here in Washington. Here I am.
“Playing in Washington allow me to be on the tour one week before than what I do usually for this part of the season.
“But missing Wimbledon, I think that's the right thing to do. The decision I think is the right one.”
This will be the world number three's first hard-court event since the Australian Open in January.
He said: “I am excited to be in Washington for the first time of my life and to play this event for the first time, too, that has a great history. Of course, I have been practicing well at home, but I need some competitive practices.
I don't know how long it will take to recover everything, but the only thing I can say is I'm here just to try my best in every single moment.
“I am excited to be back playing in America after more than a year without playing here, especially playing in front of the, full stadiums. It's something we are not seeing for such a long time.
“I love to be here in Washington because is not only a new event for me, is a new city
“Honestly, it's a very beautiful city. I have been able to walk around little bit the last couple of days. I am very impressed. I hope to have a chance to visit little bit more the city during the next couple of days.
“I am enjoying the city, I'm enjoying the people.”
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