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Djokovic wary of 'greatest tennis player' debate ahead of Tokyo 2020

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-07-23 10:10
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Novak Djokovic of Serbia wears a protective face mask during the press conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 22, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic has kept a low profile toward the debate about who's the greatest tennis player in history before kicking off his Tokyo Olympic campaign.

The world men's No. 1 has swept three Grand Slams so far this year, and is in a good position to achieve a career "Golden Slam" by winning the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, which would add weight to the argument that the Serbian's greatest tennis player.

But Djokovic was reluctant to be involved in the debate.

"I don't want to be part of the debate," he said. "I don't want to compare myself with anybody. I have my own part and my own journey. I don't want to spend time and energy thinking about what if happens. I'm just focusing on the next match.

"I know history is on the line. I'm privileged and motivated to be in this position, but let's talk about the history if everything goes well here after I finish the tournament," he declared.

For Djokovic, it's still a very long way to a potential historic achievement.

"I put myself in a very good position. I will take things very slowly and cautiously, and focus on the next challenge. This is a kind of approach that I need to have.

"In the past, I wasn't probably fully experiencing that approach, and that backfired me. I started to feel there was a lot of distraction around influencing my performance," he noted.

Djokovic said he felt quite privileged to represent Serbia in three Olympic Games, and had the fortune to win an Olympic bronze medal back in 2008.

"The Olympic experience is a unique experience. It's the most special and most historic sports event in the history of sports. Representing your country and collectively being part of the team is something that I treasure, encourages me personally and gives me a lot of confidence and great energy for my own performance.

"The team spirit is there. That gives you wings to perform your best and try to reach the biggest height in your respective sport," commented Djokovic, adding that physically and mentally he felt great and was ready to perform his best.

"I had arguably the best Grand Slam season so far in my career, winning three out of three Grand Slams. I could not have had a better preparation and better lead-up to Olympic Games than I had this year. Hopefully I can have another good tournament and a good run."

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both on a par with Djokovic with 20 Grand Slams, have decided to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to open on Friday.

"I haven't experienced too many big tournaments in the past 15 years without Roger and Rafa playing. It's a little bit strange," said Djokovic.

"But still some of the best players in the world are here, guys in top six or seven in the world. They are the biggest contenders and candidates for winning a medal," he added.

Djokovic admitted that playing matches without spectators on site is one of the biggest issues that he had before departing to Tokyo.

"Without the key element of any sport event, especially the Olympics, it's different. But it's still the Olympics," he said.

"I'm glad because there are many more beautiful things about the Olympics. Try to focus on those things that will give my inspiration to play my best tennis."

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