Novak Djokovic after beating Tallon Griekspoor at the 2021 US Open
Novak Djokovic continued his march towards the Calendar Slam with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over Tallon Griekspoor in the second round of the 202 US Open on Thursday. After the match Djokovic appeared in an interview with ESPN’s Chris McKendry, where he explained how he reacts to pressure and why the top players have a “mental advantage” over the others.
The Serb is under immense pressure at the ongoing US Open, given all the history that is at stake. Djokovic is one Slam away from becoming the first man since Rod Laver to complete the Calendar Slam – a feat he reckons would be the biggest of his career. Winning the US Open would also give the 34-year-old his 21st Major, thus making him the sole record holder for most Slams won ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
But Novak Djokovic believes pressure is part and parcel of the sport, and even more so for top players like him. During his interview the Serb mentioned Billie Jean King’s quote where she said pressure is a privilege, before asserting that he lives by that saying.
“Pressure, we all have it, but top guys, especially for me here with pressure on the line,” Djokovic said. “Pressure is huge but at the same time I thrive on that. I like that because there’s a sign ‘Pressure is a privilege’ — a quote by Billie Jean [King] – and I truly believe and I live by that. So it’s an honor to be in this situation.”
Novak Djokovic was then reminded that Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams came close to winning the Calendar Slam but failed in their pursuit. In response, the 34-year-old claimed he was honored to be discussed in the same breath as some of the all-time greats.
“It’s important to know the history as a tennis player because they’ve built the foundation that we are standing on today,” Novak Djokovic said. “Being only in the conversation with Rod Laver, with Martina, with Serena, with Billie Jean, the all-time greats of our sports is really an honor for me. I try to draw strength and motivation from that…”
Djokovic, who has won eight of the last 12 Slams on offer, also pointed out that his past accomplishments fill him with confidence ahead of most matchups.
“Most of the opponents that you get to play if you’re at the top of the game, you know that already before coming into the match, you have a mental advantage,” Novak Djokovic said.
But the Serb admitted that the results might not always go his way if his opponents play out of their skin or if he begins to doubt himself.
“But at the same time, it can go [the] other way where they don’t have much to lose and you’re too stressing about expectations and stuff that are going around the court,” Djokovic added.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s dominance on tour have made me the player I am today: Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic credited Nadal and Federer for helping him reach his level
While winning the Calendar Slam would be a new feat for Novak Djokovic, it is pertinent to note that he has already held all four Majors at the same time. He won four Slams in a row during 2015-16, a run that culminated with his maiden Roland Garros triumph.
During his conversation on ESPN, Djokovic revealed that it was at that point that he realized he had the potential to win the Calendar Slam.
“That’s where I first felt, OK this is reachable, it’s achievable. I can even do it in one year,” Novak Djokovic said. “I always believed that I have a very good chance to win every Slam on every surface because I developed over the years my game to be really an all-around game that can adapt to any game or any conditions.””But in that moment, where I won French in 2016, it’s where I really started to really believe that it can become a reality one day that I can win it all in one year,” he added.
Djokovic also pointed out that his biggest rivals, Federer and Nadal, have come close to winning the Calendar Slam. He stressed that without their dominance, he would never have become the player he is today.
“And Roger and Rafa did not manage to do that, but they were very close,” Djokovic said. “Roger played finals of French Open a couple years and he won all the other Slams. Rafa as well. These two guys and their dominance on the tour have made me the player I am today, without a doubt.”