Novak Djokovic says he is “cautiously” targeting the Golden Slam, but admits history is “on the line” as he prepares to go for Olympic glory at Tokyo 2020.
Serbia’s world number one is favourite to take the title in Japan, which would move him to within a US Open victory away from emulating Steffi Graf in claiming all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold in the same year.
Djokovic has a poor record by his standards at the Games, though. Since winning bronze at Beijing 2008, he lost out on the same medal at London 2012 to Juan Martin Del Potro - who also beat him in the first round of Rio 2016.
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But after winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, this is the closest he has come to completing even the calendar Grand Slam. Djokovic hinted that he has previously gotten too far ahead of himself before when he has been on the cusp of doing something special, and he is wary of doing that again.
"It's still a very long way to a potential achievement, historic achievement," said Djokovic, who opens his campaign against Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien.
I put myself in a very good position but I will take things very slowly and cautiously and focus only on the next challenge. This is an approach I really need to have because in the past I wasn't probably fully experiencing that approach and that has backfired on me. I started to feel there were a lot of distractions around that were influencing my performance.
"I know there is a lot of things on the line, I know there is history on the line, I'm privileged and motivated to be in this position. I've worked very hard to be there, with my team of course, but let's talk about history if everything goes great here."
Djokovic believes sticking the Serbian badge on his kit will give him an added boost, repeating the same feelings that reigning champion Andy Murray has on getting away from concentrating on himself to be a part of something bigger.
"Representing your country, being part of the team, is something that I treasure, something that encourages me and gives me a lot of confidence, a lot of great energy,” he said.
"Even though I'm by myself on a tennis court, I still feel this team spirit is there and the support of team-mates and everyone involved in the Serbian team. That gives you wings to perform your best and try to reach the biggest heights.
I feel great. Physically, mentally, I'm ready to perform at my best. I've had arguably the best grand slam season in my sport so far, winning three out of three grand slams, so I could not have better preparation and better lead-up to the Olympic Games.
Graf achieved her Golden Slam in 1988, a player Djokovic knows well from having worked with her now husband, Andre Agassi, previously.
"I have the utmost respect and admiration for Steffi and everything she has achieved in her career and the mark that she left in our sport.
"When I was thinking about the ultimate achievement that she had, I did not think that would be, I don't want to say achievable, but there's a slim chance that someone could make it again. Right now it seems more and more realistic. Of course that's one of the goals and dreams."
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