Novak Djokovic has set his sights on reeling in Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 Grand Slam singles crowns after his record-setting seventh Australian Open triumph.
As he basked in the glory of his crushing straight-sets win over Rafael Nadal, Djokovic was already looking ahead to the prospect of surpassing Federer as the most successful player the men’s game has ever seen.
“I am aware that making history of the sport that I truly love is something special. Of course, it motivates me,” the 31-year-old said.
“Playing Grand Slams, biggest ATP events, is my utmost priority in this season and in seasons to come.
“How many seasons are to come? I don’t know. I’m not trying to think too much advance.
“I do want to definitely focus myself on continuing to improve my game and maintaining the overall wellbeing that I have – mental, physical, emotional – so I would be able to compete at such a high level for the years to come, and have a shot at eventually getting closer to Roger’s record.
“It’s still far.”
Despite his untouchable form over the past fortnight at Melbourne Park, catching Federer won’t be easy.
Just to move to within four majors of the great Swiss’s benchmark tally, Djokovic would need to bring down Nadal in Paris in June to maintain the momentum.
To achieve the feat the world No.1 would have to hold all four major titles simultaneously for the second time in his career.
Djokovic described conquering clay-court colossus Nadal, who will be chasing a 12th title at Roland Garros, as “probably the ultimate challenge in tennis”.
“It’s just the beginning of the season. I know there’s a lot of tournaments to play before Roland Garros, so I have plenty of time to build my form slowly,” he said.
“I need to play better than I have last season. I am already playing better, but (on) clay specifically in order to have a chance and shot at the title.
“The ultimate challenge there is to win against Nadal. Then you have (Dominic) Thiem and (Alexander) Zverev, Roger is probably going to play.
“You have a lot of great players that on clay can challenge me or anybody else.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 28, 2019
Having already completed mission improbable in returning to the rankings summit and a Grand Slam force after undergoing career-saving elbow surgery and falling to 22nd in the rankings last year, Djokovic believes anything is possible.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant but I always believe in myself,” he said.
“That’s probably the biggest secret of my success … self-belief, always digging deep in the moments when you’re facing adversity.
“I had to do that more than ever in my life 12 months ago after the surgery because I wasn’t playing well, I wasn’t feeling good on the court, I was questioning everything.
“I was doubting whether I will be able to play everyone on this level.
“It was highly unlikely I would be holding three slams.
“I just have to be conscious of that and understand that I’m blessed.”
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