The Hindu

Djokovic comes to New York chasing Federer’s Slam mark

Says he wants to scale new heights

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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic says he nearly skipped the US Open, but plans to play the Grand Slam despite COVID-19 concerns in part to chase tennis history.

Djokovic, a 17-time Grand Slam singles champion, told the New York Times that trying to catch Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20 Slams was “of course” a major factor in his decision to play the Flushing Meadows fortnight that begins on August 31.

“One of the reasons why I keep on playing profession­al tennis on this level is because I want to reach more heights in the tennis world,” Djokovic told the newspaper.

Assurances

The 33-year-old Serbian has won five of the past seven men’s singles Slam crowns but came to the New York hardcourts only after assurances from European officials that players returning from the US Open would not face a long quarantine before upcoming European events such as the French Open.

“I was very close to not coming,” said Djokovic, who made the final decision less than a week before arriving. “There were a lot of uncertaint­ies.”

Djokovic is staying at a rental house in New York while most players are in a hotel as part of protocols to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to play. I mean, that’s why I’m here,” Djokovic said. “I am personally not afraid of being in a risky, dangerous health situation for myself. If I felt that way, I most likely would not be here.”

No Federer and Nadal

Federer, 39, is injured and Spain’s Rafael Nadal, 34, is focusing on the upcoming clay season and a potential 13th crown at Roland Garros. Djokovic, who has topped the world rankings for 282 weeks, could overtake Federer’s record of 310 weeks at the top spot by March next year, and said it was a major goal as well.

 ?? FILE PHOTO ■ ?? Major goal: Djokovic, who has topped the world rankings for 282 weeks, could overtake Federer’s record of 310 weeks at the top spot by March next year.
FILE PHOTO ■ Major goal: Djokovic, who has topped the world rankings for 282 weeks, could overtake Federer’s record of 310 weeks at the top spot by March next year.

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