Novak eyes Slam, no. 1 records

Novak Djokovic (in action at the Dubai Championships in February) was in imperious form before the coronavirus pandemic stopped the circuit in March. His fifth Dubai success extended his unbeaten run to 21 matches.
Novak Djokovic (in action at the Dubai Championships in February) was in imperious form before the coronavirus pandemic stopped the circuit in March. His fifth Dubai success extended his unbeaten run to 21 matches.PHOTO: REUTERS

Serb, 32, has no doubt he can overtake Nadal and Federer, and sees himself playing at 40

LOS ANGELES • Novak Djokovic believes he will win the most Grand Slam titles and become the longest-reigning world No. 1 by the time he retires - just over two years after contemplating retirement.

The top-ranked tennis star has 17 Grand Slam titles - two behind 33-year-old Rafael Nadal and three fewer than 38-year-old Roger Federer - but has no doubt in his ability to overtake the other members of the "Big Three".

"I'm always very confident in myself," the 32-year-old Serb said in an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger. "I believe I can win the most Slams and break the record for longest No. 1. Those are definitely my clear goals."

He was in imperious form before the coronavirus pandemic brought the circuit to a halt in early March.

He lifted the ATP Cup with Serbia, won an eighth Australian Open title and then completed a fifth triumph at the Dubai Tennis Championships, extending his unbeaten run to 21 matches.

Swiss great Federer also owns the record for total number of weeks atop the world rankings, with 310, and consecutive weeks at the top position, with 237, compared with Djokovic's 282 and 122.

Federer turns 39 in August and Djokovic said he could envision himself still playing at 40.

"I don't believe in limits. I think limits are only illusions of your ego or your mind," he said.

It was not too long ago that he had an entirely different outlook on the game. After falling in straight sets to unseeded Benoit Paire in his opening match at the Miami Open in March 2018, his wife, Jelena, revealed that he was ready to hang up his racket.

"He said to me that he's quitting and that's the truth," she said in the interview. "He lost in Miami. It was a terrible loss. And then he just, you know, gathered all of us and said, 'You know guys, I'm done.'

"And I was like, 'What?' And he goes like, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Edoardo (Artaldi, Djokovic's manager), you can speak with my sponsors.

SELF-BELIEF

I don't believe in limits. I think limits are only illusions of your ego or your mind.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, tennis' world No. 1, on envisioning himself still playing at 40.

"I want to be clear with them. I don't know if I'm stopping for six months, a year or forever'."

But Djokovic did not go through with his retirement plans and bounced back to triumph at Wimbledon that July.

The full interview will air in the US this weekend on local affiliates, and on international and regional sports networks next week.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2020, with the headline 'Novak eyes Slam, no. 1 records'. Print Edition | Subscribe