PortraitReaching the top of world tennis in the Federer-Nadal era, the 34-year-old Serb has beaten all odds by equaling his two more popular rivals. In case of triumph at the US Open on Sunday, he even has the opportunity to supplant them.
At 7 years old, little Novak was already showing a certain aplomb. In an excerpt from a Serbian public television program, he is seen proclaiming, cap upside down and racket twirling between his fingers: “My goal is to be number one. “ The footage, broadcast in 1994 as war raged in the Balkans, has resurfaced in recent months. It’s an understatement to say that the kid from Belgrade has ideas.
Twenty-seven years later, Novak Djokovic is only three games away from conquering the absolute Grail in tennis: completing the calendar Grand Slam, in other words, winning the four biggest tennis tournaments in the same season. . After the Australian Open (in February) and Roland Garros (in June), the Serbian also got his hands on Wimbledon on July 11. A victory that allowed him to equal his two eternal rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with a 20e Grand Slam title.
The US Open – where he challenges the Italian Matteo Berrettini on Wednesday 8 September for a place in the semi-finals – is the last obstacle that stands in front of the world number one. By winning in New York on Sunday, September 12, Djokovic would do double duty. He would bring this record to 21 with, as a bonus, the “four in a row” in a calendar year that neither the Swiss nor the Spaniard have achieved. In the history of tennis, only two men have succeeded: the American Donald Budge in 1938 and the Australian Rod Laver, twice, in 1962 and 1969, at a time when the sport was much less dense than today. ‘hui and was only played on two surfaces (grass and clay). The German Steffi Graf is the last to have achieved such a feat in the Open era (in 1988).
A quest that turns into obsession
After half a century of scarcity among men, the stake and the pressure would be enough to paralyze. But especially not the person concerned. “Would winning the Grand Slam be the greatest accomplishment of my career? I think the answer is simple. Yes of course, he replied to journalists, on the sidelines of his New York fortnight. Jesuis very efficient under pressure. I like it, and I’ve shown it plenty of times in my career. Pressure is a privilege. “
On the circuit, he has never been a follower of false modesty, even if some in the locker room or elsewhere perceive behind this assurance a form of arrogance. “I play to write history”, repeats the mystic Djokovic like a mantra for two years – a quest that turns to obsession and has already seen him overtake Federer, in March, in the number of weeks spent on the throne (338 instead of world number one, series in progress, compared to 310).
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