Novak Djokovic US Open 2021

Calendar Slam bid was pressure Novak Djokovic had ‘never experienced in career’

Novak Djokovic has said the stress he felt when competing for the Calendar Slam was “a paramount kind of pressure.”

The World number one had been competing for both a Golden Slam and a Calendar Slam after winning the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon in the 2021 season.

However, losses to World number four and eventual gold medallist Alexander Zverev at the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics and World number two Daniil Medvedev at the US Open put an end to these dreams.

The Serbian number one was vying to be the first male player to win a Golden Slam, which is the feat of winning all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic Gold in one calendar year. Steffi Graf was the last player to achieve such an accomplishment in 1988.

Similarly, Djokovic was also aiming to be the first male player to claim a Calendar Slam since Rod Laver in 1969. A Calendar Slam is when a player wins all four Grand Slam titles in one season, or a calendar year.

Djokovic said his experience of playing at the top helped him manage the pressure of competing for such rare achievements.

“I was very blessed to be in a position to fight for a Calendar Slam,” he said. “That happens once in 50 years or maybe more so.

“Being able to win four Slams in a row, not in a calendar year, but in 2015 and 2016, helped me to understand how to deal with the situation even though it was a bit different.

“But it was still a paramount kind of pressure that I’d never experienced in my career.

“The experience that I had in playing at the highest level for over ten years definitely helped to keep things together.

Djokovic was unhappy with how he performed in the US Open final and hoped to spend time with his family following the loss.

“Unfortunately in that most important match against Daniil in the final I underperformed in my opinion. Nothing to take away from his performance, his win, it was remarkable tennis from his side the entire tournament so he deserved it, but I was a bit disappointed knowing that I could have done better.

“But life goes on, family, two kids, I was really looking forward to kind of putting tennis on the side for a bit and just do other things, spend quality time with the family, rejuvenate and regroup and then find the drive again, find the motivation.

“There’s plenty of things you can be motivated with. It’s not just history… it’s a lot of things. Even if it just comes to one single match it’s always a challenge that keeps on driving us. I keep on going and I am blessed to be in this position.

Following his US Open loss, Djokovic took a two-month long break before returning to action at the Rolex Paris Masters.

“I was absent from the tour for two months, coming into this tournament, and the last competitive match I played was in the US Open final, compared to the other guys playing one or two events prior to Paris,” he said.

“I knew that I needed to start well, with good intensity and put in a lot of hours on the practice court. But it’s different when you play points in a competitive match.”

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.