US Open 2015

Slam is possible: Djokovic

Novak Djokovic begins his quest for his first US Open title since 2011 with a first- round tie against Brazil's Joao Souza today.
Novak Djokovic begins his quest for his first US Open title since 2011 with a first- round tie against Brazil's Joao Souza today.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Having won three Majors in 2011, men's top seed believes that he can achieve what Laver did twice

NEW YORK • Not since Australian tennis legend Rod Laver in 1969 has a man completed a calendar-year Grand Slam but men's world No. 1 Novak Djokovic believes he could be the next to do it.

The 28-year-old Serbian top seed will launch his US Open campaign today against Brazil's Joao Souza at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. He will serve as the warm-up act before women's world No. 1 Serena Williams opens the night session.

She is the hottest ticket at this Open as she is trying to complete the calendar Grand Slam, last accomplished in 1988 by Steffi Graf.

She is also aiming for her 22nd major title to equal Graf for the Open-era record.

"I am sending her good vibes. I hope she does it. She's a true champion and she is impressive," said Djokovic of the American star.

The Serb, seeking his 10th major title, is only one match shy of coming to the Open with the same chance as Williams at a calendar Grand Slam, which is winning all four Major titles of the year.

He had lost the French Open final to Stan Wawrinka after beating Andy Murray in the Australian Open final.

But he bounced back to beat Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final.

"I have been close and that gives me enough reason to believe that I can achieve that," Djokovic said of the calendar-year Slam, which Laver managed twice (1962 and 1969).

"I'm trying to win every Grand Slam I play. I set myself up for high standards because of the results I've had the last couple of years.

"I'm an ambitious guy and I devote myself completely to the sport. Will that happen or not?

"I cannot predict but I can definitely tell you that I give my best."

Djokovic can win three Slams in the same year for the second time in his career if he takes the US Open. In 2011, he won the US and Australian Opens as well as Wimbledon but lost to Spanish star Rafael Nadal in his first trip to the Roland Garros final.

That defeat also foiled Djokovic's bid for a "Novak Slam" - holding all four major titles at the same time, even though it did not happen in a single calendar year.

The Serb sees himself on a different level than he was in 2011.

"I'm a different person, a different player than I was in 2011 so it's kind of hard to compare tennis-wise," he said.

"Physically, I'm stronger and able to endure longer than I did in 2011.

"As you grow older, you are trying to develop your game and get to the highest level possible.

"I think this season, results-wise, is pretty close to 2011. What I achieved in 2011 is hard to repeat, so this season is definitely just behind that one."

His quest for a future Grand Slam will be aided when a permanent roof over the Arthur Ashe Stadium will be in place for next year's US Open. He believes it will help his performance by calming the swirling winds that in the past had affected his accuracy.

"I've practised several times on the centre court," Djokovic said.

"The construction is really impressive and that has protected the court from the wind, so we have less of the swirling conditions on the court, which does help.

"In the past, I've played many matches where it was difficult to control the ball on the court because of the swirling conditions.

"Now, it protects it."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'Slam is possible: Djokovic'. Print Edition | Subscribe