Novak set on Slams sweep

Novak Djokovic celebrating his French Open win with ball girls. The world No. 1 has set his sights on becoming only the third man to capture a calendar-year Grand Slam.
Novak Djokovic celebrating his French Open win with ball girls. The world No. 1 has set his sights on becoming only the third man to capture a calendar-year Grand Slam. PHOTO: REUTERS

Serb says wins at Wimbledon and US Open a 'possibility', after surreal experience in final

PARIS • Novak Djokovic insists the enticing prospect of becoming only the third man to clinch a calendar-year Grand Slam and the first since Rod Laver in 1969 is "achievable".

The world No. 1 captured a maiden French Open at the 12th time of asking on Sunday, becoming just the third man in history to hold all four Majors at the same time.

The 29-year-old's 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Andy Murray allowed him to claim a 12th Slam and join Don Budge, in 1938, and Laver, in 1962 and 1969, as the only players to simultaneously possess the French Open, Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon trophies.

"Well, I don't want to sound arrogant, but I really think everything is achievable in life," said the Serb.

"You know, winning this trophy today gave me so much happiness and fulfilment. I'm trying to grasp and I'm trying to cherish, obviously, these moments right now. Whether or not I can reach a calendar-year Slam, that's still a possibility."

EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE

I don't want to sound arrogant, but I really think everything is achievable in life... Whether or not I can reach a calendar-year slam, that's still a possibility.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, tennis men's world No. 1, on the possibility of him winning all four Grand Slam titles in a calendar year.

The last player to even have the chance of a calendar-year Grand Slam at this stage of the season was America's Jim Courier, who won the Australian Open and French Open back-to-back in 1992.

But he failed while even the likes of Djokovic's biggest contemporary rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have never held all four Majors at the same time even though they have completed career Grand Slams.

Djokovic's first French Open title came after heartbreaking losses in his three previous finals in Paris.

But his 12 Grand Slams - six in Australia, three at Wimbledon, two at the US Open and now one in Paris - have taken him to within five of Federer's record of 17 while he is just two off the 14 held by Nadal and Pete Sampras.

"It's incredibly flattering to know that Rod Laver is the last one that managed to do it (the calendar-year Slam). It's one of the ultimate challenges that you have as a tennis player," added Djokovic, who endured a nervous conclusion to Sunday's final.

He served for the title at 5-2 in the fourth set before Murray broke and held to get to 4-5.

The world No. 1 then double-faulted on a first match point and went wide with a forehand on the second.

But Murray then netted a backhand after a lengthy rally and Djokovic's place in the history books was confirmed.

The Serb revealed that he was so stressed in the closing stages that he felt he was having an out-of-body experience.

"When I broke him the second time and I got to 5-2 in the fourth, I just started laughing. I don't know. I had that kind of emotion. I didn't feel too much pressure, honestly. Maybe I took things a bit too lightly and just played a loose game at 5-2," he recalled.

"We're all humans, and arriving so close like never before in my life to this trophy and winning it, you know, I felt it. I felt the tension and excitement, all the emotions. You name it.

"In the last point I don't even remember what happened. It was really one of those things - moments where you just try to be there.

"It's like my spirit has left my body and I was just observing my body fight the last three, four exchanges going left to right and hoping that Andy will make a mistake, which happened."

Djokovic won the first of his Grand Slams at the Australian Open in 2008 but had to wait another three years before claiming a second. In that time, Federer and Nadal carved up 10 of the 11 Slams between them.

"At the beginning I was not glad to be part of their era. Later on, I realised that in life, everything happens for a reason," he explained.

"You're put in this position with a purpose, a purpose to learn and to grow and to evolve. Fortunately for me, I realised that I needed to get stronger and that I needed to accept the fact I'm competing with these two tremendous champions."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Novak set on Slams sweep'. Print Edition | Subscribe