Novak Djokovic says memories of last year’s French Open triumph give him “goose bumps” and will spur him on in his pursuit of a third title at Roland Garros and record-equalling 21st major. Djokovic makes his return to Grand Slam action after his high-profile deportation from Australia, heading to Paris after winning a first title of the year at the Italian Open.
“I feel I am always in that contention to fight for any Grand Slam trophy,” Djokovic said yesterday.
“I believe in my own abilities to get far and to fight for one of the most prestigious trophies. As a defending champion of course more so, to believe I can do it again. Reliving the memories from last year is something that obviously gives me goose bumps and motivation to try to replicate that.”
The world number one, who turns 35 tomorrow, has played in just five tournaments this year following his refusal to get vaccinated. After losing his Monte Carlo opener, Djokovic finished runner-up at home in Belgrade before a run to the last four in Madrid.
He then beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final in Rome to win his 38th Masters event, two more than Nadal at the top of the all-time list. “Historically it always has required some time and several tournaments to really feel comfortable playing on clay,” said Djokovic.
“Rarely did I feel my best on clay in the first or second tournament in the season. So that was the case this season again. It took me two tournaments to really feel that I’m getting closer to desired level. I reached that level in Rome.”
In a top-heavy French Open draw, Djokovic is seeded to meet Nadal in the quarter-finals before potentially taking on Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the semis. He faces 94th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in the first round.
“We talk about favourites for Roland Garros and clay, and Nadal always has to be right at the top, because of his records particularly in this tournament,” said Djokovic.
“And then you have Alcaraz that obviously is the story of men’s tennis in the last four or five months with a big reason. He’s had some tremendous leaps forward on rankings and the results that he’s been achieving are phenomenal for someone of his age. He has made a quantum jump really forward in the last five, six months.”
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