Djokovic 'motivated' for Roland Garros challenge

Djokovic 'motivated' for Roland Garros challenge

Novak Djokovic is ready to embrace the weight of history as he bids to follow in the footsteps of Rod Laver and Don Budge.

The world number one already has the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open trophies in his possession and, if he were to add the Coupe des Mousquetaires, he would become the first man since Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam titles at once.

Only Laver, twice, and Budge in 1938 have achieved the feat, both as part of a true Grand Slam where they won all four in a single year.

Djokovic may yet match that feat, but were he to triumph at Roland Garros it would be one of the best achievements in sporting history – given the level of competition – and see him succeed where both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have fallen at the final hurdle.

The Serb said: “This is an opportunity that very few tennis players have in their lives. I’m aware of that, but I accept it as a challenge.

“It makes me even more motivated. It makes me feel good about it, rather than feeling pressured and worried if something bad is going to happen. So I’m looking forward to that.”

Last year Djokovic, who plays Italy’s Potito Starace in the first round, went into the French Open unbeaten after an incredible start to the season that included defeating Rafael Nadal in finals on clay in Madrid and Rome.

He continued his winning sequence against the Spaniard in a titanic Australian Open final in January but has come up short on clay in Monte Carlo and Rome in recent weeks.

Nadal is bidding for a record seventh Roland Garros crown, surpassing the mark he currently shares with Bjorn Borg, and Djokovic knows he will always be the man to beat in the French capital.

“He is always favourite for this tournament,” said Djokovic. “He even was last year. He’s the most successful tennis player ever to play on this surface.

“He played well in the Rome final. Even though it was a straight-sets win I thought we played a close match. But he was playing better.

“That’s what you expect from him. You can always expect him to be at his top level, especially in the later stages of tournaments.

“Here he’s going to be even more difficult to beat because it’s the best of five (sets).”

Djokovic may not have won as many matches or titles this season but his confidence is higher than ever.

Of the Rome final, he added: “Even though I lost that match, I felt good on the court hitting the ball.

“I did make maybe a bigger number of unforced errors than I was supposed to and I wasn’t striking the ball as well as I did maybe against Roger in the semi-finals, but the form is there.

“My mindset is always positive and I always expect a lot from myself. I had the best year and a half of my career. I believe that I’m at the peak of my career at this moment.

“I definitely want to use this confidence that I have and try to have a good result here at Roland Garros.”

Federer has twice won Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open back-to-back only to fall short against Nadal in French Open finals, and he is excited to see whether Djokovic can go one better.

The world number three said: “It’s an amazing achievement in itself to win three in a row. Four in a row is just another amazing step.

“I think the toughest part is the very end. I’ve been there twice. I was twice in the final, twice a couple of sets away. I was playing Rafa here, which doesn’t make it a whole lot easier.

“It’s easier to maybe start with the French in this era and then finish it on the hard courts.

“But it’s amazing for tennis right now that we have Novak in this situation again where we had Rafa at the Australian Open last year.

“I think it’s great for the sport.”

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