French Open stands in Djokovic's path to greatness

Mon Feb 1, 2016 11:21am EST
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By Pritha Sarkar

LONDON (Reuters) - He is the tennis version of the Terminator and he'll definitely be back at the French Open in May, but for Novak Djokovic his exploits at the claycourt major could decide his place in the pantheon of greats.

For the second time in his career, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open champion Djokovic will arrive at Roland Garros needing seven victories to become the first man in almost 50 years to hold all four grand slam titles at the same time.

It is a feat that is so difficult that it has not been achieved by a man since Australian Rod Laver won the second of his calendar Grand Slams in 1969.

Djokovic's effort to join an exclusive club which boasts only two male members -- Don Budge and Laver -- was thwarted in 2012 by Rafa Nadal in the Paris final.

With nine-times French Open champion Nadal no longer the force he was, Djokovic will arrive in Paris as the overwhelming favorite to lift to the Musketeers' Cup for the first time at his 12th attempt.

Djokovic, beaten in three Paris finals over the last four years, may never get such a golden opportunity to complete a feat that was tantalisingly just out of reach for tennis greats such as Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Nadal.

The biggest obstacle standing in his way may be his own mental belief.

Djokovic may have contested five consecutive grand slam finals, he may have won a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title and he may be ranked number one in the world -- but for all his confidence, he knows that he has had 11 failed attempts to win the ultimate prize in claycourt tennis.   Continued...

Serbia's Novak Djokovic poses with the men's singles trophy during a photocall, a day after winning his final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Government Hill in Melbourne, Australia, February 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Reed