Djokovic Hopes Fourth Time Is A Charm
Three times Djokovic has been one match from completing the career Grand Slam on the terre battue. In 2012, he was on the precipice of adding the lone remaining major trophy to his growing haul, but Rafael Nadal was there to thwart the Serbian in four sets. Two years later, Djokovic looked to be in control against his Spanish rival after racing to a 6-3 lead, but once again Nadal would not be denied.
In 2015, the World No. 1 exorcized the demons in defeating Nadal in the quarter-finals, but a mesmerizing performance by Stan Wawrinka stole the show. This year, it's the same tournament and the same prize, but a different opponent on Sunday. With longtime rival Andy Murray standing between him and the Coupe de Mousquetaires, Djokovic hopes the fourth time will be a charm.
"I've put myself in the position I wanted to be in ever since last year's final," Djokovic said. "It's always high on the priority list when I start a season, thinking about Roland Garros, and to be able to reach the final is really special. I give myself another opportunity to win the trophy."
With his longtime rival on the other side of the net, Djokovic is well aware that the task at hand will be anything but routine. In 12 of their past 14 FedEx ATP Head2Head clashes, the World No. 1 has emerged victorious, but Murray is coming off a resounding straight-set win in the final of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia and carries an impressive 35-3 record on clay over the past 13 months.
Djokovic is not taking anything for granted.
"We have split wins lately. I think in the last 12 months or so he's beaten me probably three times. I beat him maybe one or two more. I think he's one of the most dedicated tennis players on tour. He always seeks to improve his game and to get better, which I do, too.
"Ever since we first met when we were 11 years old, if we knew back then that we were going to fight for biggest trophy in this sport, I think we would both sign the document. It's pretty nice that our rivalry has evolved over the years. I don't think that there is any particular advantage to my side. I think mentally when we step on the court, maybe to some extent there's a some small percentage, but he's playing in great form.
"We haven't played at Roland Garros too many times. We played I think last year in five sets. I remember that match very well. Let's see. It's another Grand Slam title up for grabs for both Andy and myself. One thing is for sure: I know to always expect a physical battle with him when I get on the court."
In addition to completing the career Grand Slam, Djokovic is bidding to become the reigning champion at all four majors, a rare achievement in men's professional tennis. It has been nearly 50 years since Rod Laver last achieved the feat in 1969, having previously done so in 1962. Don Budge was the only other player to own the quartet of trophies at the same time, in 1938.
"For a change, it's great to have a day off," Djokovic added, referring to the persistent rain that hit Roland Garros during the second week. "I think it's going to serve me well to recover and get that energy supply. On Sunday, I'll give my all as always."