Novak Djokovic’s only reason to get out of bed today

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic busca su cuarto título en Roland Garros
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PARIS – There are three culprits, in chronological order: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Two of them are still competing, and there is one who, because of the juggernaut they created together, has trouble getting out of bed.

‘The Grand Slams are the ones that make me get out of bed every day and know that I have to go to the practice courts,’ Djokovic confessed in a meeting with a handful of journalists at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, after making a successful debut at Roland Garros.

The Serb did not use that name, but was referring to the ‘Grand Slam syndrome’ he created with the Swiss and Spaniard. So successful were the three in the conquest of the four major tennis tournaments, that any other tournament lost importance. Very much so. Everything is based on preparing for Melbourne, Paris, London and New York, all tournaments are at the expense of these four exceptional events.

That’s partly why Djokovic arrived in Paris at 37 years old and without having won a single title in the season, something that rarely happened to him. He didn’t even reach a final. His best game hasn’t shown up so far in 2024, and so it is that he strung together early defeats in several tournaments and a disappointing clay-court tour with stops in Monte Carlo, Rome and Geneva.

But it would not be the first time that he has arrived at a Grand Slam with doubts and then ended up lifting the champion’s trophy. That’s what he wants to do in Paris, win his 25th title.

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And, although he didn’t say it this time, his other big dream in Paris is to win the Olympic gold medal he has always been denied.

That covers any failure in an ATP 250 or 500, also in a Masters 1000. For a long time now, for better or worse, the measure of top tennis has been through the four majors. It is the responsibility of the trio that amassed 66 Grand Slam titles between 2003 and 2023, something never seen before in tennis history, something that is unlikely to be seen again.

‘It’s something I’ve been saying since the beginning of the year and for the last few years, that the Grand Slams are the ones that get me out of bed every day (…). I always think about what I can do at the Grand Slams. So here I am. Hopefully I can put in another great performance.

Still, Djokovic fears what comes next, after a convincing opener against Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Novak Djokovic in the French Open 2024

‘The tournaments in Monte Carlo, Rome and Geneva started very well for me. The first matches I played were great. Then the second and third matches were quite different. So I don’t want to get too excited,’ he admitted, smiling but looking tired.

Novak Djokovic senses, as the whole tennis world senses, that his record number of Grand Slam titles (24) will not be broken. Nadal has 22, but although the Spaniard is increasingly clear that he will still be playing in 2025, it is unlikely that he will add more major titles, or at least enough to move from his 22 to a higher step that threatens the Serb’s record.

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Djokovic has not won a major since September in New York. The challenge of reaching number 25 is something that motivates him. Or even more.

“Are you having fun,” he was asked in that late-night encounter with Roland Garros already empty.

‘Well, honestly, here much more than any other tournament I’ve played this year, except Australia. Even Australia was kind of an uphill battle in terms of how I was feeling on the court.’

‘But, again, it’s only one match. So we have to see how I progress in the tournament, how the feelings evolve, but it was good. You know, I was fist pumping, I was focused, I was there, I was present. So I’m happy with the way I performed on the court. That’s what I was looking for. And where are you going to feel like that if not in the Grand Slams?”

And he smiled again. Will he do it again on Sunday 9 June?

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