No pressure, thought of 21st Grand Slam motivating: Djokovic

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New York, Aug 28 (IANS) World No. 1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, will be chasing history over the next fortnight at the US Open, where a title would give him a record-breaking 21 majors and the Grand Slam, having already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year.

Djokovic is currently tied with Swiss legend Roger Federer and Spanish clay-court specialist Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles apiece and a fourth US Open title to add to his three previous triumphs — in 2011, 2015 and 2018 — will move him past the two tennis stalwarts.

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The 34-year-old Djokovic said that he was not allowing the pressure of expectation to overcome him, and was rather motivated to play his best tennis.

“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. It’s probably the most entertaining tennis court that we have. [The] crowd will be back [in the] stadium,” Djokovic said.

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“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 told atptour.com.

“I’m hugely inspired and motivated by that, no doubt. But at the same time, I know how to balance things out mentally, with lots of expectations around. My participation here, without Rafa and Roger participating, I feel it. I know there are a lot of people who are going to be watching my matches and expecting me to do well and fight for a Slam.”

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Djokovic added that even without 20-time major winners Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer competing at Flushing Meadows, there will be plenty of tough challengers. Second seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia triumphed in Toronto, Germany’s Alexander Zverev won the Tokyo Olympics and Cincinnati, and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas is also a big contender.

“You still have tremendous quality tennis players that are right now on hot streaks, like Zverev, Medvedev [and] 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,” Djokovic said.

“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.”

Djokovic has not competed since the Tokyo Olympics. But the Serbian said that his preparation for the season’s final major has gone well.

“I feel 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 said.

“[At the] Olympics [I] unfortunately didn’t end up with a medal. It was a great experience of sharing the Village and the dining room with 10-plus-thousand athletes. It’s a very unique experience that you remember forever.

“You take a lot of positives out of it, putting aside the tennis performance, just in general. I think you can learn a lot, you speak life, you speak sports. I really value that experience a lot.”

Djokovic has great memories in New York, where he has lifted the US Open trophy three times and made the final on another five occasions. The Serbian owns a 75-12 record on the Flushing Meadows hard courts.

–IANS

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