Not since Australian legend Rod Laver in 1969 has a man completed a calendar-year grand slam, but top-ranked Novak Djokovic believes he could be the next man to do it.
The 28-year-old Serbian top seed will launch his US Open campaign on Monday against Brazil’s Joao Souza at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where he will serve as the warm-up act before Serena Williams opens the night session.
Three-time defending champion Williams is trying to complete the calendar slam, last accomplished in 1988 by Steffi Graf, and win her 22nd career major title, matching Graf for the Open Era record.
“I am sending her good vibes. I hope she does it. She’s a true champion and she is impressive.”
But Djokovic, seeking his 10th career major, is only one match shy of coming to the Flushing Meadows fortnight with the same chance as Williams at a calendar-year slam sweep.
Djokovic lost the French Open final to Swiss Stan Wawrinka after beating Britain’s Andy Murray in the Australian Open final and before he downed Swiss 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final.
“I have been close and that gives me enough reason to believe that I can achieve that,” Djokovic said of the calendar-year slam.
“I’m trying to win every grand slam I play. I set myself up for high standards because of the results I’ve had the last couple of years. I’m an ambitious guy and I devote myself completely to the sport.”
“Will that happen or not? I cannot predict and say yes or no, but I can definitely tell you that I give my best.”
Djokovic can win three slams in the same year for the second time in his career if he takes the trophy in two weeks.
In 2011, he won the US and Australian Opens and Wimbledon but lost to Spanish star Rafael Nadal in Djokovic’s first trip to the Roland Garros final.
That defeat also foiled Djokovic’s bid for a “Novak Slam” – holding all four major trophies at the same time, even though it didn’t happen in a single calendar year.
Djokovic sees himself as a much different player than he was in 2011 when he won three slams in an epic season.
“I’m a different person, a different player than I was in 2011 so it’s kind of hard to compare tennis-wise,” Djokovic said. “Physically I’m stronger and able to endure longer than I did in 2011.
“As you grow older you are trying to develop your game and get to the highest level possible. I think this season, results-wise, pretty close to 2011.
“What I achieved in 2011 is hard to repeat, so this season is definitely just behind that one.”