Tennis

Djokovic poised to scale Grand Slam peak at favorite stomping ground

Reuters

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Djokovic poised to scale Grand Slam peak at favorite stomping ground

WORLD'S BEST. Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his match against Spain's Carlos Alcaraz in an exhibition match in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Ahmed Yosri/REUTERS

‘You're not really meant to play tennis like that at 36,’ Novak Djokovic's former coach Boris Becker says of the world No. 1, who looks to break a 50-year-old record

MELBOURNE, Australia –Novak Djokovic resumes his quest for Grand Slam supremacy at the Australian Open, where the seemingly invincible Serb will be the firm favorite to claim his 25th major singles title and eclipse a record that has stood for half a century.

The 36-year-old enjoyed one of the most dominant seasons of his career in 2023, winning a record-extending 10th crown at the Melbourne major before triumphs at the French and US Opens to go level with Margaret Court on 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

Australian Court won the last of those trophies in 1973 and Djokovic is poised to go past her on his happiest hunting ground, where 12 months ago he braved a political row involving his father and battled through a torn hamstring to prevail.

Barring a blip in a thrilling Wimbledon final against Carlos Alcaraz and a couple of late-season defeats by another youngster in Jannik Sinner, the world No. 1 was virtually unbeatable last year with little to suggest he will slow down in 2024.

“You’re not really meant to play tennis like that at 36,” Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker said in a recent Eurosport podcast.

“When does the guy get tired, or when does he run out of motivation?”

Djokovic has not got off to the best of starts in the new season, suffering his first defeat in Australia in six years at the United Cup mixed team tournament after being hampered by a right wrist issue against Alex de Minaur.

“I think I’ll be okay,” Djokovic said. “It did have quite an impact, particularly on the forehand and serve. I have plenty of time, I think enough time to get myself in the right shape for the Australian Open.”

With his 43-match winning run in Australia ended, Djokovic will be fired up to get a head start in his quest for the Golden Slam – winning all four majors and the gold medal at the Olympic Games – to match Steffi Graf’s rare feat in 1988.

“I’ve have always the highest ambitions and goals. That’s not going to be different (in 2024), that’s for sure,” Djokovic said after outclassing Alcaraz and Sinner in back-to-back matches to secure the year-end top spot at the ATP Finals in November.

“The drive that I have is still there. My body has been serving me well, listening to me well. I have a great team of people around me. The motivation, especially for the biggest tournaments in the sport, is still present.

“It still inspires me to keep going.” – Rappler.com

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