Novak Djokovic is hoping to follow a “guiding star” as he bids to win the Calendar Slam at the US Open – and believes he will “thrive under pressure” in New York.
The world No 1 is looking to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in the same year.
If he lifts the US Open trophy for a fourth time he will also become the first man to win 21 Grand Slam titles, moving one ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
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“Obviously I know how big of an opportunity is in front of me here in New York, where historically I've played really well over the years,” he said ahead of his opening match against qualifier Holger Rune.
“It's probably the most entertaining tennis court that we have. The crowd will be back in the stadium. I can't wait. Honestly I'm very motivated to play my best tennis. But I have to hit one ball at a time, try to be in the moment, have a guiding star in a way, a dream to win a Slam here, which would obviously complete the Calendar Slam.”
Djokovic hasn’t played for nearly a month after missing out on a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
He said after the tournament that he was battling multiple injuries and was unsure how fit he would be for the US Open. However, after taking a break he now says he “feels good on the court”.
“I took a little bit of additional time off after the Olympics. I have not played Cincinnati, which was previously planned, because I just felt exhausted in every sense after that long summer, which was very successful.”
Djokovic has not won the US Open since 2018 and was disqualified last year in the fourth round for hitting a ball towards a line judge, having lost at the same stage of the tournament in 2019. He has also been beaten in the final five times, which is as many final defeats as he has suffered at the three other majors combined.
All eyes will be on the world No 1 as he returns to New York bidding to make history, but he says the “pressure is a privilege”.
“I’m very inspired to play my best tennis here. I don't want to say it's now or never for me because I think I'm going to have more opportunities in my life to win Slams. I don't know if I'm going to be having more opportunities to win Calendar Slams.
“That's why it's a very unique opportunity. At the same time, I don't need to put any additional pressure to what I already have, which is pretty big from my own self and from of course people around me.
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“But I thrive under pressure, as well. I've done that many times in my career. Pressure is a privilege, it truly is. This is what you work for day-in, day-out, all your life, to put yourself in a unique position to win Grand Slams and to make history. At the end of the day, I'm a big tennis fan, a fan of history. I admire this sport. I love it. I have this chance, and I'm going to try to use it.”
Djokovic will be the only one of the Big Three playing at the US Open as Federer and Nadal are both out with injury, along with defending champion Dominic Thiem.
However, he still thinks he faces a tough path to glory, with the likes of world No 2 Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev, who is on an 11-match winning run, potentially in his way.
“You still have tremendous quality tennis players that are right now on hot streaks, like Zverev, Medvedev and [Stefanos] Tsitsipas. Those are the three top contenders I see for the title. But a Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. It's a two-week-long event, best-of-five sets. Everyone wants to do well at the Grand Slams. Anything can really happen.
“Of course the top seeds are the top favourites to go far and go deep in the tournament, but I've been in this situation numerous times in my life. There is a slight difference in terms of what's at stake and the feeling towards that, but I don't give it too big of a significance on a daily basis because I'm trying to be in the present moment.”
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