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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday May 27, 2023

Novak Djokovic

The 22-time major champion is setting his sights on No.23 in Paris.

Photo Source: Getty

Novak Djokovic is chasing history in Paris, and he’s well aware of what’s on the line. The 36-year-old says he is extremely motivated by having the opportunity to become the first man in history to win 23 major singles titles.

Tennis Express

“History being on the line is something that is very flattering and is very motivating, no doubt about it,” he said on Saturday in his pre-tournament press conference.

But he admits that it won’t be the same without Rafael Nadal in the main draw for the first time since 2004.

“Obviously Nadal not playing in the tournament here is a big loss for tennis, is a big loss for Roland Garros, because he's by far the most successful player to play in this tournament in the history," Djokovic said.

The Belgrade native says that Nadal’s absence creates a brand new feel in Paris this year. He believes that the field is more open than he’s ever seen, and he believes that there are many potential winners.

“Of course it opens up, you know, a chance and opportunity for the rest of us to try to get a title, because whenever he plays he's an absolute favorite here or any clay court tournament, for that matter,” Djokovic said, adding: “You have big names, of course, like Alcaraz, he's No. 1 in the world, and probably the biggest favorite in the tournament. Tsitsipas and Medvedev, they have started playing great on clay. And Rune, Ruud, Zverev, knows how to play big events, can always do damage against anybody.

“So I think the tournament is quite open, to be honest. Maybe a few guys that are at the top of the favorites list, but anyone can take it. I'm hoping it can be me.”

Djokovic, who faces American Aleksandar Kovacevic in the opening round, says he is not worried about his physical condition at all.

Hampered by an elbow injury during the season, the Serbian seems to believe the issue is behind him.

He also believes the best-of-five Grand Slam format favors him, for many reasons.

“I feel always extra motivated and confident in Grand Slams I think because of the success I have had over the years in these kind of events all over the world, different surfaces,” he said. “And best-of-five, you know, played every second day. I think it actually serves me well, this kind of format, because it allows me to have some time to recover between the matches and slowly build my form.”

With no issues, and all the motivation, it’s easy to see Djokovic as the man to beat in Paris, even if he enters the tournament without any notable clay court results this spring.

The two-time champion is motivated, most of all, to make more history.

“It's no secret that one of the main reasons I play today and compete in professional tennis is to try to break more records and make more history in tennis,” he said. “That's extremely motivating and inspiring for me. But as I said, at the same time, you know, things are different than they were 10 years ago in terms of how my body is maybe responding to the schedule. You know, I'm playing season after season.

“So early in the year I was saying that I put emphasis and priority on the Grand Slams, so I'm feeling good at the moment. I don't have any physical issues that worry me. So that's most important for me. You know, I want to feel good coming into a Grand Slam.”


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