Novak Djokovic will begin his quest to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam when he takes on Danish qualifier Holger Rune in the opening round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday, with the Serb also targeting a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title.
A New York triumph will mean that Djokovic will become only the third man, and the first since Rod Laver in 1969, to hold all four majors in the same year having already claimed the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles in 2021.
It would also take Djokovic past his great rivals Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal – who are locked with the world number one on 20 Grand Slams – as the pair are not competing at Flushing Meadows due to knee and foot injuries.
“Honestly I’m very motivated to play my best tennis. But I have to hit one ball at a time… try to be in the moment, have a guiding star, a dream to win a slam which would complete the calendar slam,” Djokovic said.
“I’m hugely inspired and motivated by that. At the same time I know how to balance things out mentally. My participation here without Rafa and Roger, I feel it. I know there are a lot of people who are… expecting me to do well.
“At the same time, regardless of Roger’s and Rafa’s absence, you still have tremendous quality tennis players probably on hot streaks.”
Djokovic could face tricky tests deeper in the tournament with potential clashes against big-serving Matteo Berrettini and 2020 runner-up Alexander Zverev but Rune believes he too has the game to spring a major surprise.
“At the beginning my heart was like, ‘whoa’,” the 18-year-old said of the draw. “It was kind of crazy. He’s an incredible player, he’s a legend, so it’s going to be fun for me.
“I believe I have the level to play with everyone on Tour, so it’s going to be a really interesting match.
“I’m a real fighter on the court… He’s world number one and I’m not even top 100 yet but I want to really do my best.”
In other first-round matches, Zverev takes on local favorite Sam Querrey while on the women’s side, Wimbledon champion Ash Barty meets Russia’s Vera Zvonareva.
Olympic champion Belinda Bencic begins her bid for a maiden Grand Slam title against Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, while former U.S. Open winner Bianca Andreescu takes on Viktorija Golubic.
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