Novak Djokovic - Australian Open 2024

Novak Djokovic: Anything but a title for me is not satisfactory

Novak Djokovic has admitted that he is ’embarrassed’ by his high expectations for Roland Garros, with the world No.1 reflecting on his relatively poor start to the 2024 season.

Djokovic is without a title ahead of Roland Garros for the first time since 2018, and has not even reached a final after suffering semi-final defeats at the Australian Open, Monte Carlo Masters and most recently the Geneva Open.

Despite this, the Serbian is the top seed and defending champion at Roland Garros this year and suggested that anything other than a 25th Grand Slam title would be a disappointment.

“It’s tough to talk about. It’s very subjective,” said Djokovic talking about his expectations. “I almost feel a bit embarrassed to say what my expectations are. Anything but a title for me is not satisfactory. It always has been like that. I know it might sound arrogant to a lot of people, but I think I have a career that backs it up.”

The 37-year-old continued, “So that’s why my hopes and goals are always the same, but I have to lower the expectations. When I say that I mean maybe not thinking too much ahead in advance in terms of the tournament and who I might face in the later rounds, but really taking it day by day, step by step, and really building my game. Because that’s what I have really been struggling with, not playing at a consistently good level.”

Djokovic’s best result in the current clay court season came at the aforementioned Monte Carlo Masters, but the 98-time ATP title winner suffered a less favourable outcome in Rome where he was knocked out in the third round.

Although recent results have been below Djokovic’s usual standards, the three-time Roland Garros champion is hoping to peak at the clay court major, “I know what I’m capable of, and particularly in the Grand Slams I normally play the best tennis, at least I aim always to play the best tennis, and I was most of my career able to do that, so that’s the goal.

“I have been saying for quite a while that in terms of clay, I want to peak in Roland Garros. Last year I had an amazing year particularly here in Roland Garros, and hopefully, I can have a great tournament.”

He added, “Of course it does affect me, the five months that I had so far in the year haven’t been great in terms of my tennis. That’s why I have a kind of an approach that is focused on a daily basis more trying to build the form and momentum so that I can have a better chance to reach further in the tournament.”

Djokovic has made many changes to his team in the past year, including ending the long-term partnership with coach Goran Ivanisevic.

However, the 24-time Grand Slam champion did not seem to want to attribute these changes to his recent form, “It’s various things that were happening in the last couple of months, but I don’t want to get into it. I don’t want to open Pandora’s Box and talk about things.

“What has happened, happened, and it’s in the past. It’s something that I can’t (let) affect anymore, but I can kind of learn to rectify certain things and right the certain things that are wrong and really not serving the purpose of my highest performance level. That’s what we have been working on as a team, and hopefully it will give us good results here.”

Djokovic will begin his Roland Garros title defence on Tuesday, when he takes on French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round.

Inside the baseline…

It has definitely not been the strongest start to the season by Novak Djokovic’s standards, but you just cannot count him out at a Grand Slam in a best-of-five set format. Not only is Djokovic a different beast at Grand Slams, but also the world No.1’s draw enables him to be able to work his way into the tournament and potentially peak against the most dangerous players in the latter stages.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.