“I would be delighted to ask Steffi Graf how she did it”

Novak Djokovic has arrived in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics 2020, and he is looking as confident as ever. Having won the first three Majors of the year, Djokovic is three-fifths of the way to a ‘Calendar Golden Slam’ i.e. winning all four Majors plus the Olympics gold in the same year.

Steffi Graf is the only player in the history of tennis to have completed a Calender Golden Slam, which she did back in 1988. When asked during his Tokyo presser on Thursday whether he had received any advice from Graf on this matter, Djokovic replied in the negative.

He did, however, admit that it would be good to pick the German’s brains on how to go about the task.

“I’m not in touch with Steffi,” the Serb said. “But if you could connect me with her I would be delighted to ask her how she did it. I have utmost respect and admiration for Steffi and everything she has achieved in her career, the mark that she left on our sport.”

The Serb went on to reveal that earlier he would consider the Calendar Golden Slam to be borderline unachievable. But Djokovic thinks it is a “realistic” goal for him now, and he hopes to take inspiration from Graf’s “champion mentality” as he attempts to pull off the elusive feat.

“When I was thinking about her ultimate achievement – the four Slams and Olympic gold medal in one year – I thought there was only a slim chance that someone could do it again,” Djokovic said. “But right now it seems more and more realistic for me. Of course that’s one of the goals and dreams. It is hard to compare the circumstances back in the day when she played and now. But still, the champion mentality that she possesses is definitely something that inspires me. Hopefully I’ll be able to use that in my upcoming task.”

Novak Djokovic did stress, however, that he wasn’t looking too far ahead, given that every single match could potentially be a landmine. Djokovic also referred to his stumbles during the 2016 season, when he was in position to complete the Golden Slam after Roland Garros but ended up losing early at Wimbledon.

“I’ll take things slowly and one moment at a time,” Djokovic said. “In the past, I wasn’t fully experienced and it backfired on me. I know a lot of things are on the line, history is on the line. I am privileged to be in this position, but let’s talk about history if everything goes great here, after I finish with the tournament.”

Although Novak Djokovic is aware that he is in the middle of a historic season, he refused to get into the ‘Greatest of all time’ or ‘GOAT’ debate. The Serb instead claimed that he was looking only at his own career, and asserted that he didn’t want to be compared with the other greats of the sport.

“I don’t want to be compared with anyone,” the World No. 1 said. “I have my own path, my own journey. I’m just focusing on the next match.”

It’s a bit strange, I’m used to seeing at least one of them” – Novak Djokovic on the absence of Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal in Tokyo

Novak Djokovic at the Tokyo Olympics 2020
Novak Djokovic at the Tokyo Olympics 2020

Novak Djokovic is treating this year’s Olympics as a regular tournament, unlike the last edition – where he self-admittedly got overwhelmed by the occasion. The Serb also claimed he is looking forward to his first-round match, where he will face Hugo Dellien.

“I was nervous about playing in the previous Olympics,” Djokovic said. “When I’m playing for Serbia it’s different. (But) I consider this Olympics as a normal tournament. I’m hoping to have the best result and focusing on the first match, where I’m playing with an opponent who I’ve never played before.”

The 34-year-old also talked about Juan Martin del Potro, the man who beat him in both the 2012 and the 2016 editions of the Olympics.

Del Potro had posted a comment on Djokovic’s Instagram a couple of days ago, joking that he “had his chance” this time since the Argentine was out due to injury. Djokovic had admitted in his reply to that comment that Del Potro “kicked his ass” every time they played at the Olympics, and the Serb repeated the sentiment on Thursday.

“I am relieved that Del Potro is not here, that’s what I wrote to him as well,” Djokovic said. “But I am also very happy to see him on the tennis court. I saw some images and videos of him hitting the tennis ball out there. (He’s had) many surgeries and he’s one of my best friends on the tour. Fantastic guy, great champion…It’s very unfortunate with everything he has dealt with, and I hope that he can be at a high level very soon.”

Novak Djokovic has a great record in Asia, having won the Beijing and Shanghai tournaments multiple times. Djokovic also won the Tokyo Open the only time he played it (2019), and the World No. 1 recalled that run while talking about the conditions this year.

“It’s great to be back in Japan,” Djokovic said. “I played a tournament here a couple of back and I won it. The conditions are different, it’s very hot and humid. The court has different speeds and bounces this time.”

Novak Djokovic was later asked about how it felt to be playing a tournament where neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal is present. Federer and Nadal have pulled out of Tokyo due to physical concerns, making this the first edition of the Games since 1996 where they will both be absent.

Checkout: Tokyo Olympics Medal Tally

“I don’t have experience with both Roger and Rafa not playing in big tournaments,” Djokovic said. “It’s a bit strange to be honest, I’m used to seeing at least one of them.”

“The top six guys of the tournament are here,” the Serb added. “Medvedev, Tsitspas, Zverev, Rublev are here, and they are all looking to win medals. But I’m trying to focus on my own game.”

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