Djokovic: 'History On The Line Very Motivating'
Djokovic is relishing the opportunity to set another record when he takes to court at the clay-court major.
“It's no secret that one of the main reasons I play today and compete in professional tennis is to try to break more records and make more history in tennis,” Djokovic said in his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday. “That's extremely motivating and inspiring for me… History being on the line is something that is very flattering and is very motivating, no doubt about it.”
The third seed Djokovic arrives in Pairs holding a 5-3 record on clay this season. The 36-year-old suffered a third-round exit in Monte-Carlo before he lost against Holger Rune at the quarter-final stage in Rome. He also missed Madrid due to injury.
Despite recent setbacks, the two-time champion Djokovic is confident he can produce his best in the French capital.
“I don't have any physical issues that worry me. So that's most important for me,” Djokovic said. “I want to feel good coming into a Grand Slam… I know how to approach the Grand Slam. I know how to live during these few weeks, in a way day in and day out, and I hope that I'll have a few weeks. It would mean that I went far in the tournament.”
Djokovic is in the same half as Top 5 stars Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Nadal is one rival the Serbian won’t be facing, though, after the 14-time Roland Garros champion withdrew due to injury last week.
The World No. 3 shared his thoughts on Nadal’s absence and his title contenders.
“Obviously Nadal not playing in the tournament here is a big loss for tennis. It is a big loss for Roland Garros, because he's by far the most successful player to play in this tournament in the history,” Djokovic said. “Of course it opens up, you know, a chance and opportunity for the rest of us to try to get a title, because whenever he plays he's an absolute favourite here or any clay court tournament, for that matter.
“You have Alcaraz, he's No. 1 and probably the biggest favourite in the tournament. Tsitsipas and [Daniil] Medvedev, they have started playing great on clay. And Rune, [Casper] Ruud and [Alexander] Zverev, knows how to play big events, can always do damage against anybody.”
Djokovic is seeded to meet Spaniard Alcaraz in the semi-finals. Alcaraz won their only previous tour-level meeting in Madrid last year and Djokovic was full of praise for the 20-year-old and his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero.
“With Alcaraz, you have Juan Carlos Ferrero who is a former World No. 1. Someone who had the reputation of always being very serious, very disciplined, and he went about his business in a proper manner. I think him being with Alcaraz from I the age of 14 or 15 was a fantastic decision for Alcaraz. To have somebody who is going to mentor and guide you and introduce you to the professional tennis. It is obviously working extremely well.”
Djokovic will begin his campaign against American Aleksandar Kovacevic.