Tennis: Djokovic thanks fans after breaking record
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Novak Djokovic will face the most stress of his life when he attempts to make history at the upcoming US Open. Former British No 1 Annabel Croft believes the top seed will experience feelings of pressure he’s never dealt with before as he tries to win a record 21st Major and achieve the Calendar Grand Slam.
Djokovic is the favourite to lift the US Open trophy this year, having already won the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
A title in Flushing Meadows would make him the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the Calendar Grand Slam, and would also pull ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal by bringing his tally of Slam titles to 21, the most for any male player in history, with the Big Three all currently tied on 20.
With Federer and Nadal both out of the US Open, and the world No 1 looking dominant so far this season, he is expected to make history in New York next month.
Although the absence of his biggest rivals should make things more straightforward for the Serb, former world No 24 Annabel Croft believes he will face stress on “every single point”.
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Speaking to the Express about his chances, she said: “Well he’s definitely a favourite and I’m excited for him to be able to try to achieve such a monumental task. It’s only been done twice in the history of the sport in the men’s and then it’s been done by Steffi Graf in the women’s, to hold all four in one calendar year.
“When you hear some of the top players who’ve won Slams, and they talk about how tough it is to win one, and here we are talking about one of the all-time greats of the sport holding 20, potentially becoming the holder of more than anyone else in the sport, it’s just mind-blowing.
“I think he’s going to have more stress and pressure than he’s ever, ever had in his life.”
The Prime Video commentator also said she could see the pressure weighing on Djokovic’s shoulders during his Wimbledon final against Matteo Berrettini last month, with the win allowing him to tie Federer and Nadal to hold the most Slams a man as ever won.
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“I’ve never, ever seen him that nervous in terms of that match and how he was playing. It affected everything but I was so admiring of how he controls everything and was able to achieve it,” the two-time junior Grand Slam champion said.
“But I can’t imagine what he’s going to be feeling like trying to do this, to overtake them and also to do what’s only been done twice before in the history of the sport, it is absolutely enormous. I think he can do it but I think it’s going to be difficult.”
Djokovic was also the only member of the Big Three to play the US Open last year but was unablw to capitalise in their absence, and instead found himself defaulted when he hit a ball away in frustration after being broken in the first set of his round of 16 match, which accidentally made contact with a lineswoman and saw him disqualified.
Annabel pointed out that it would make Djokovic’s attempt for history even more difficult, saying: “He is only going to be focused one match at a time and the match in front of him, and he just wants to get through seven of those. And we can’t even imagine what he puts himself through emotionally, it’s like a personal journey, every single match.
“And the emotion that he’ll have to ride for those seven matches, best-of-five sets, I mean every single point, there will be stress, I can’t imagine.
“And don’t forget he’s coming back to a venue where there were quite bad memories last year where he was defaulted out of the tournament, but also there was no crowds. So very difficult circumstances.”
Despite the amount of pressure set to weigh the Serb down in Flushing Meadows, the former British No 1 still picked Djokovic as her winner of the US Open, and praised his ability to cope through tense matches.
“He knows how to manage those emotions and I think he’s very good at compartmentalising everything, and also the fact that he hasn’t played since the Olympics and he’s taken those two big events off just to recharge the batteries, get his mind ready, he’s never afraid to take time off,” she said.
“But all I can say is I think the stress levels will be absolutely off the scale than anything he’s ever felt before.”
The US Open is available to watch on Prime Video from Monday 30th August.
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