Tennis: Djokovic thanks fans after breaking record
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Novak Djokovic has received backing from Marion Bartoli ahead of a potential historic US Open triumph. A run to the title in Flushing Meadows would take him ahead of rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the Grand Slam race, giving him a record 21st major. He would also make history as the first man to complete the calendar Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.
Djokovic was on course to complete the Golden Slam, winning all four majors and Olympic gold in the same year, until his run in Tokyo came to an end in the semi-finals.
The world No 1 stormed through the draw at the summer games until falling to Alexander Zverev despite winning the opening set of their match.
He then lost the bronze medal playoff to Pablo Carreno Busta the following day, hurling his racket into the stands during a dramatic three-set loss, and withdrew from his third place match in the mixed doubles.
After being unable to bring home any silverware, the Serb pulled out of the Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati, part of the build-up to the US Open, and has set his sights on the title in New York.
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Djokovic is more of a favourite than ever to win his 21st major following the news that both Federer and Nadal will be out of action.
The Swiss star is undergoing a third knee surgery since the start of 2020, and announced that it would leave him out of the tour for “many months”.
Meanwhile, 13-time Roland Garros champion Nadal announced on Friday (August 20) that he would be returning to the tour in 2022 as he continues to battle an ongoing foot injury that kept him out of Wimbledon and the Olympics.
And Djokovic has now received a boost from Bartoli, the 2013 Wimbledon champion, who is backing the Serb to make history at Flushing Meadows.
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“I would not understand if we do not place him as a big favourite,” she told Tennis Majors.
“For me he is the big favourite. It’s a little easier. He has a day off between each match, he has time to think about each victory, he has time to rest before the next game. I think the Grand Slams are definitely playing in favour of Novak Djokovic.”
The former world No 7 also admitted she couldn’t see anyone other than the three-time US Open champion lifting the trophy.
She continued: “He will try to win a 21st Grand Slam title and be the first to reach this level. I think his motivation will be at its peak and he has the game to win on hard, he has proven it time and time again. To be honest, I can’t see him failing to win the US Open.”
While the world No 1 seems like an inevitable winner with the rest of the Big Three absent, it’s not the first time Djokovic has come into a tournament without his rivals there.
Both Federer and Nadal skipped the Olympics this year, leaving many to hand the Serb the gold medal before the tournament began, something he was unable to do.
Djokovic was also the only member of the Big Three to enter the US Open last year, with it being one of the first events since the pandemic started, leaving many players hesitant to travel.
He was once again the favourite to capture the title but was defaulted from the tournament when he let his frustrations get the better of him when going down a break in his round of 16 match.
After his opponent Carreno Busta broke to go 6-5 up in the first set, the 34-year-old hit a ball away in frustration, which made contact with a line judge and the Serb was immediately disqualified.
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