By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic will head to Wimbledon buoyed by a spectacular French Open triumph and aiming to stay on course for completing a calendar-year Grand Slam as well as going level on 20 majors with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer.
A window of opportunity has opened up for the 34-year-old Serb to match his two great rivals and also become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in the same year.
There are many obstacles still ahead for Djokovic but with Nadal not playing at Wimbledon and Federer having missed so much tennis in the last two years, he has a chance, perhaps even of completing the Golden Slam by also winning the Tokyo Olympics.
“I think that he is willing to give it a shot. I do think that he can do it,” Eurosport expert and seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander said.
“I think he wants to show to himself that he is super-human. And I think he is super-human when I see him play. I think his body can handle it. I actually feel he most probably needs to play matches to keep the intensity high — so this is a year where Novak can win the Golden Slam in my eyes.”
Having won the Australian Open in February, Djokovic initially struggled on the European clay.
But after dismantling Nadal in the French Open semi-final, he went on to claim the title for the second time, coming back from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a riveting final.
Djokovic’s preparation for the defence of the Wimbledon title he won in 2019 took an unusual turn as he opted to spend some family time in the Spanish island of Mallorca, fine-tuning his game by playing doubles on the grass at the Mallorca Open.
“I wanted to spend more time with my family because once you’re in London you are in lockdown,” Djokovic, who will move into the Wimbledon COVID-19 bubble this week, said.
World number one Djokovic will be the big favourite to win Wimbledon but he will be wary that the only other time he went there as defending French Open champion in 2016, he made an early exit at the hands of American Sam Querrey.
Even though Nadal is absent and eight-time champion Federer may be off the pace, Djokovic still faces a formidable field.
But with parity with Federer and Nadal almost in his grasp he will be a tough nut to crack and could be going to the U.S. Open in August with history beckoning.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic and Martyn Herman; editing by Pritha Sarkar)