Tennis: Djokovic thanks fans after breaking record
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Novak Djokovic brought himself one step closer to achieving the Calendar Grand Slam after coming back from a set down to beat his old rival Kei Nishikori at the US Open. The world No 1 can become the first man in 52 years to win all four Majors in one year by lifting the trophy in Flushing Meadows, and is feeling confident after overcoming his biggest hurdle in tennis.
Djokovic kept his chances of the Calendar Slam alive as he battled past Nishikori, feeling “uncomfortable” for the first set and a half before settling into the match.
The Serb found himself a break down early in the first set but got himself back on serve before losing 7-4 in the tiebreak.
After looking a little tetchy for a few more games, he was able to adjust his game and find his best level, beating the former world No 4 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 6-2.
Djokovic voiced his frustration with how he started the match, but was able to turn things around and now feels he is in a “good place” to win the Calendar Grand Slam at the US Open.
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“I don’t think I started off very well. I was quite passive,” he admitted.
“I was too far back in the court. He was dictating the play. I was still trying to find the rhythm, find the tempo.
“Obviously he played much quicker and more aggressive than my opponents in the opening rounds did, so it took me a little bit of time to adjust to his game.”
The world No 1 quickly found his game and was able to convincingly get himself back into the match, “thriving” off the loud Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, adding: “I think beginning of the second set I already felt like I’m getting the groove back, I’m getting that rhythm back.
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“I was very pleased with the focus. Maybe at some points I wasn’t at my best, but overall I was determined, I was concentrated and that’s what matters in the end.”
With history on the line for the Serb, Nishikori, who suffered his 18th consecutive loss to Djokovic, thought his opponent was not affected by the weight of the Calendar Slam while playing, saying: “I’d say he was the same. Maybe he’s feeling that inside, a lot of pressure, but I couldn’t see during the match.”
Meanwhile, the 20-time Grand Slam champion admitted he liked his chances of winning the Calendar Slam, opening up about the moment he believed he could win all four Majors this year.
Speaking after the match, Djokovic said: “After I won in Paris this year, I felt like, ‘OK, I like my chances on grass, I won two Wimbledons in a row, I’ve improved over the years on grass – it did not seem impossible anymore to go for all four in a row in the same year.
“So here I am. I’m in a good position to do that. Still in the tournament. But I’ve got to take one match at a time.”
The world No 1 admitted that the clay-court Slam always felt like his ‘Mount Everest’, and is looking to recreate the best feeling of his career when he won his first French Open in 2016 to hold all four Majors at once, though not in the same calendar year.
“Probably the greatest Grand Slam career satisfaction I had is when I won four in a row back in 2016 when I crowned it with the first Roland Garros trophy,” he said.
“Even though I grew up playing on clay, I feel like Roland Garros has always been probably the Mount Everest for me. Out of all four Slams, that was the toughest for me to win.
“Both 2016 and this year’s win on French Open feel kind of similar. I felt if I win Roland Garros in that year, I have a good chance to maybe do it all in same year, calendar Slam.”
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