It didn’t take lengthy for Novak Djokovic to make his intentions clear: All that issues to him from right here on out is catching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam standings.
Forget about successful different, run-of-the-mill tournaments or taking part in sufficient to retain the No. 1 rating.
18 Grand Slams for Djokovic 🏆
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 21, 2021
There is one main purpose for the 33-year-old from Serbia. He desires to hold including to his 18 main championships — he reached that quantity with No. 9 at the Australian Open on Sunday — till he not trails Federer and Nadal, who share the males’s record of 20.
“They’ve made history already. They made a tremendous mark in our sport,” Djokovic mentioned. “Whether I think about winning more Slams and breaking records? Of course, I do. And most of my attention and my energy from this day forward, until I retire from tennis, is going to be directed (at) majors, trying to win more major trophies.”
Which is completely wonderful. There is not any want for pretense.
And there’s completely no requirement that he present up to compete extra usually than he actually desires or in locations aside from the place he actually desires. If all that issues to Djokovic from a tennis standpoint is accumulating Slams, and taking part in much less steadily may also shield his physique — he had surgical procedure on his right elbow three years in the past; his 2021 Australian Open almost was derailed by what he mentioned was a torn belly muscle — that’s his prerogative.
It isn’t a lot totally different from what Federer himself or 23-time main champion Serena Williams, for that matter, have carried out for years.
“I think 99.9% of players — kids that get a racket in their hands — start dreaming about what they want to achieve. It’s a Grand Slam, winning a major,” Djokovic defined after his commanding efficiency in a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Daniil Medvedev in the remaining at Melbourne Park.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 21, 2021
“I mean, I don’t feel like I’m old or tired or anything like that,” he mentioned. “But I know that biologically and realistically, things are different than they were 10 years ago for me.”
Connected to that: His newest triumph at the Australian Open got here with the extra bonus of assuring a keep atop the ATP rankings till a minimum of March 8.
That is when he’ll attain 311 weeks at No. 1 for his profession, yet another than Federer’s complete, one other intention Djokovic made clear mattered to him.
“When you are going for No. 1 rankings, you kind of have to be playing the entire season, and you have to be playing well; you have to play all the tournaments. My goals will adapt and will shift a little bit, which means that I will have to adjust, also, my calendar,” Djokovic mentioned. “Not have to, but I will have an opportunity to do that, which, as a father and a husband, I’m really looking forward to.”
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One a part of the calculus is that nobody is aware of, in fact, whether or not Federer, who hasn’t performed in additional than a 12 months after two knee operations and turns 40 in August, or Nadal, 34, will win extra majors — or what number of extra.
It bears repeating that till Federer, Nadal and Djokovic got here alongside, no man had received greater than Pete Sampras’ 14 Grand Slam titles. Here we’re, lower than 20 years after Sampras retired, and he’s been surpassed by a trio of males, and by loads of majors.
“We’re talking about some Cyborgs of tennis, in a good way,” Medvedev mentioned, referring to the longevity and unprecedented success of the guys generally known as the Big Three. “They’re just unbelievable.”
Winning share in Grand Slam singles finals
Nadal 20-8 (71.4%)
Federer 20-11 (64.5%)
Djokovic 18-10 (64.3%) pic.twitter.com/RzsCU6a05k
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) February 21, 2021
Djokovic’s coach, 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, predicted Nadal will declare “one more, maybe two” championships at the French Open, the place he collected a thirteenth final October.
That is the solely occasion of a person proudly owning extra singles titles from one main than Djokovic’s haul in Australia. Federer’s excessive is eight at Wimbledon.
All have profession Grand Slams.
“Roger and Rafa inspire me. That’s something that I’ve said before. I’ll say it again. I mean, I think as long as they go, I’ll go,” Djokovic mentioned. “In a way, it’s like a race (of) who plays tennis more, I guess, and who wins more. It’s a competition between us in all areas. But I think that’s the very reason why we are who we are, because we do drive each other, we motivate each other, we push each other to the limit.”