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AFP
May 25, 2019

Djokovic eyes Slam sweep as Rafa challenge looms

Sports

AFP
May 25, 2019

PARIS: Novak Djokovic believes that his 2016 achievement of holding all four Grand Slam titles at the same time is the perfect playbook for a repeat performance at Roland Garros as he tries to become just the second man to complete the feat.

The world number one heads into the French Open with Wimbledon, the US Open and Australian Open titles already under his belt. Victory in the June 9 final in Paris would allow him to join Rod Laver as the only other man to hold all the four majors at the same time twice.

“There is an extra motivation and incentive to win Roland Garros because of the opportunity to hold all four Slams, something I did three years ago,” said the 32-year-old on Friday. “That gives me obviously enough reason to believe I can do it again.”

Old rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal may have more career majors — 20 and 17 respectively to Djokovic’s 15 — but neither of them have managed even one private sweep, let alone two.

Victory in two weeks’ time would also move him halfway to emulating Laver’s feat of calendar Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969.“I hold three Slams, am world number one. Obviously it’s quite a different feeling approaching the tournament, with more confidence, and hopefully I can have a good two weeks,” he said.

Despite his optimism, however, Djokovic prefers to pile the pressure of expectation onto the shoulders of 11-time Roland Garros champion Nadal. Nadal defeated the Serb in the Italian Open final last weekend, a performance which led Djokovic to anoint the Spaniard as the man to beat in Paris.

“He’s the main favourite to win the title,” said Djokovic who remains just one of two men to have beaten the Spaniard on the Roland Garros clay in 14 years. “It wouldn’t be fair to pick anybody else but him as the main favourite, because he has won this tournament so many times.

“He has lost two times in his career on Parisian clay. So lots of respect for him, obviously, as always.”Nadal holds an incredible French Open win-loss record of 86-2, and hit top form by winning his ninth Italian Open last week with a final victory over Djokovic.

He could move to within two titles of Federer’s all-time men’s record of 20 Grand Slam trophies if he lifts the Coupe des Mousquetaires.“I don’t care if I’m the favourite,” Nadal said.

“I care about feeling well and playing well. I appreciate that you (the media) see me like that, but (Dominic) Thiem, Novak (Djokovic), Federer, Tsitsipas who has been playing well, (Juan Martin) del Potro, (Kei) Nishikori — all those that are the best in the world will be favourites.”

“The only thing that worries me is being well and being competitive. The only favourite that matters is the one who has the cup at home in two weeks’ time.”Meanwhile, Federer played down his chances of winning the tournament.

“(I) don’t know (if I can win the tournament). A bit of a question mark for me. Some ways I feel similar to maybe the Australian Open in ‘17,” the 2009 French Open winner said. “A bit of the unknown. I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch? I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet.”The French Open begins May 26.

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