PARIS (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic may never have a better chance to win a maiden French Open title and complete a rare career grand slam.
The world number one enters this year’s Roland Garros on a 22-match unbeaten run having claimed the Monte Carlo and Rome Masters titles.
While his great rival and claycourt master Rafa Nadal is showing signs of frailty, Serbia’s Djokovic, who has reached the final twice at Roland Garros (2012 and 2014), could not be in better shape.
Since last November, he has won the ATP World Tour finals, the Australian Open and became the first man to win the opening three Masters tournaments of the season in Indian Wells, Miami and Monte Carlo.
“It is obviously very encouraging knowing that I have won all of the big events from last October, that I’ve been playing some of my best tennis in my life, and coming into Roland Garros with that amount of confidence helps,” he told a news conference after Friday’s draw.
In 2011, Djokovic arrived in Paris brimming with confidence only for Roger Federer to snap his 43-match winning streak in the semi-finals.
But the Serb believes he has matured into a more level-headed player.
“I just feel more complete as a player in terms of ability to handle the emotions on the court, to find a way to win the tough matches,” he explained.
If he is to join Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi, Federer and Nadal as a winner at all four grand slams, Djokovic may first have to beat Nadal in the quarter-finals.
The nine-times French Open champion arrives in Paris on the back of his worst claycourt season since he first played the tournament in 2005.
He remains, however, a formidable opponent in best-of-five-set matches on his favored surface.
“(There) had always been a big title on clay (for him) coming into Roland Garros. It wasn’t the case this year, so it is probably a bit different approach for him,” said Djokovic, who could face Briton Andy Murray in the last four and 17-times grand slam champion Federer in the final on June 7.
In the women’s draw, defending champion and second seed Maria Sharapova of Russia is confident she can add to her two Roland Garros titles after winning the Italian Open on clay last weekend.
World number one Serena Williams, looking to win her 20th grand slam title, withdrew from Rome to rest a sore elbow, a decision which the American hopes will help her in Paris.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis