Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

With all four majors now won, Novak Djokovic eyes a Golden Slam

If the Serb wins the Olympic gold in Rio and the remaining two grand slams of the year, Wimbledon and the US Open, he would be the first man to achieve the Golden Slam – a term coined in 1988 following Steffi Graf’s success at the four majors and the Seoul Olympic Games.
French Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates with the ball girls following his victory against Andy Murray. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
French Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates with the ball girls following his victory against Andy Murray. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Gustavo Kuerten was certainly not impressed with Novak Djokovic’s drawing skills.

The love-heart he drew on the Philippe-Chatrier Court, after defeating Andy Murray for the one jewel missing from his studded Grand Slam crown, was not very visible and Kuerten, the original Roland Garros artist, had some words of advice.

“I would tell him you need to improve a lot,” said Kuerten, a three-time French Open champion who celebrated his third title, in 2001, by drawing a heart and laying down in the centre of it.

Of course, Kuerten would not dare offer any advice to Djokovic about his tennis and he echoed many of the Serb’s peers when he said: “He’s able to get better every single year, that’s scary.”

It is scary indeed. For Djokovic, determined to create a niche for himself in this era of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, has taken his game to stratospheric heights.

See also:

• Novak Djokovic celebrates ‘biggest moment’ of career after winning first French Open title

• Novak Djokovic’s career Grand Slam in numbers

• Gallery: How Novak Djokovic dismantled Andy Murray to win a first French Open title and career grand slam

• Monday’s cover: Mission accomplished for Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros

“Nadal and Federer were so dominant in the sport when Andy and myself came in the mix, at the beginning I was not glad to be part of their era,” said Djokovic after his first French Open success on Sunday, a triumph that puts him on a select list of eighth men who have won all four majors.

“Later on, I realised that in life everything happens for a reason. I realised that I need to get stronger and that I need to accept the fact that I’m competing with these two tremendous champions.”

And stronger he surely got. So strong that he is virtually unbeatable these days, especially at the grand slams. The Serb has won 28 successive matches at the majors since his shock defeat to Stan Wawrinka in last year’s French Open final.

In fact, that is his only loss at the grand slams since the start of 2015 and his long-overdue success at Roland Garros, coming after three painful defeats in finals, makes Djokovic only the third man in history to hold all four grand slam titles at the same time after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969).

Budge and Laver had won all four in the same year, and Djokovic, the first man to win the opening two grand slams of the year since Jim Courier in 1992, believes he can match them in 2016.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I really think everything is achievable in life,” Djokovic said. “Whether or not I can reach a calendar slam, that’s still a possibility. But I don’t think about it right now. Right now I just try to enjoy this experience of winning the trophy that I never won before.”

An even greater possibility exists for Djokovic. This is the Olympic year and the Serb, if he wins the gold in Rio, in August, and the remaining two grand slams of the year, Wimbledon and the US Open, would be the first man to achieve the Golden Slam – a term coined in 1988 following Steffi Graf’s success at the four majors and the Seoul Olympic Games.

That record is tennis’ pinnacle and Djokovic, on current form, certainly looks on the right track.

Who can stop him? Andy Murray, his closest rival? The Scot has lost 13 of his last 15 matches against the Serb, a stretch that includes five grand slam defeats, including three finals.

They have not played on grass, though, since Murray beat him at the 2013 Wimbledon final, so it could still bring some cheer to the Scots’ fans at home.

A fully fit Federer or Nadal could pose Djokovic a few problems, but not when the Serb is playing like the way he did on Sunday or in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, or the Doha final, in January.

In the pre-2011 era, Djokovic’s record against Federer and Nadal at the majors was two wins against four losses to the Swiss and five straight defeats to the Spaniard. Since 2011, he has met them 17 times at grand slams and won 11, beating Federer in seven of nine matches, including the last four, while he is tied at 4-4 with Nadal.

Djokovic is 27-6 combined against Murray (11-2), Federer (6-3), Nadal (7-0) and Wawrinka (3-1) since the start of 2015 and 9-1 at the majors against these fellow members of the Big Five club over the past 18 months.

Those stats certainly make him the most dominant tennis player in history and a Golden Slam could just be the perfect riposte to any doubters.

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Updated: June 6, 2016 04:00 AM

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