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Djokovic pursues the Grand Slam of the calendar year at the US Open

FILE – Tennis – Wimbledon – All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Great Britain – July 9, 2021 Serbian Novak Djokovic celebrates his semi-final victory against Canadian Denis Shapovalov REUTERS / Toby Melville

Top ranked Novak Djokovic will attempt to complete the first men’s singles Grand Slam of the calendar year in 52 years and become the all-time men’s leader in Slam titles by capturing the US Open.

Since Rod Laver in 1969 the feat has not been accomplished and the opportunity in tennis history has fueled Djokovic’s fire to finish the 2021 sweep.

“I know the great opportunity that I have in front of me,” said the Serbian star. “I am very motivated to play my best tennis. I’m very inspired and motivated by that, without a doubt. “

Five previous champions will not be on the field when the showdown begins Monday on the hard courts in Flushing Meadows, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro and 2020 winner Dominic Thiem absent due to injuries.

That leaves the main obstacles in Djokovic’s path to a career 21st Slam crown as a twenty-something talent pool trying to build their trophies: Daniil Medvedev, second-placed from Russia, Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece, third, and Alexander, fourth ranked Olympic champion. Zverev from Germany.

The roots of Djokovic’s astonishing streak in 2021 lay in last year’s US Open, where he was eliminated from the tournament in the fourth round against Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta when he struck a ball and accidentally hit a line official in the throat.

The 34-year-old has not lost a Grand Slam match this year, beating Medvedev in the Australian Open final, Tsitsipas in the French Open final and Italian Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final.

“It is very lucky for me and incredible that everything comes together in the same year,” said Djokovic. “That is something I did not expect, but I always dream of achieving the most important things in sport.”

The men’s slam was performed only by Australian Laver in 1962 and 1969 and American Don Budge in 1938.

“What he accomplished this year is amazing,” Nadal said. “I definitely think he can do it, without a doubt.”

After opening against a qualifier, Djokovic could face sixth seed Berrettini in the quarterfinals, Zverev in the semifinals and Medvedev or Tsitsipas in the final.

Djokovic has briefly held all four Slam titles at once, winning his fourth consecutive title at the 2016 French Open to complete a career Grand Slam.

In his career, Djokovic has won nine Australian Opens, six Wimbledon crowns, two French Opens and the 2011, 2015 and 2018 US Opens.

He has spent a record time at world number one, more than 335 weeks, and arrives at the US Open without having played since losing the Olympic bronze medal match to Carreño Busta.

Nadal, who along with Federer and Djokovic shares the men’s record of 20 Slam titles, sees no reason why Djokovic shouldn’t finish what he started.

“Well, he already won three. So when you win three, you can win four, for sure, right? Did 75 percent of the way. He’s going to play on a hard court, probably his best surface, so why not? Nadal said.

The “Big Three” of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won 60 of the last 72 majors since Federer won his first at Wimbledon in 2003, but six of the 12 won by others have come at the US Open.

Rivals ready for Novak

Medvedev, a 2019 US Open runner-up who won a tune-up title in Toronto, sees Djokovic as a clear favorite.

“Definitely Novak will be the highest contender,” Medvedev said. “He’s the man under pressure, but I think he likes it.

“I will try to do my best. If I can maintain the level I’m playing at right now, I have a good chance of going far. I just want to play well. “

Tsitsipas is proud of his qualification and his career in the Roland Garros finals.

“Three is a very significant number,” Tsitsipas said. “It pushes me a lot to hold that, to want to go the extra mile.”

Zverev, runner-up at last year’s US Open, won the Cincinnati title and beat Djokovic in the Olympic semi-finals. He has a 12-game winning streak.

“I am very hungry. I’m not satisfied yet, ”Zverev said. “I’m looking forward to … showing that I am still one of the best players.”

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