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French Open 2013: What about Djokovic?

Novak Djokovic on his way to the Monte Carlo title
by Simon Cambers
Saturday 25 May 2013

While everyone is busy talking about Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon.com wonders if we've forgotten about Novak Djokovic, the man seeking to complete the quartet of Grand Slams...

When Andre Agassi won the French Open in 1999, he became only the fifth man to complete a career-set of Grand Slam singles titles, the first man to do so since the 1960s. Since then, both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have matched his achievement. Now Novak Djokovic has the chance to do the same.

Just as he did 12 months ago, Djokovic has the chance to join this most elite of bands if he can get his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires, the famous trophy given to the winner of the French Open, which starts on Sunday. The world No.1, the champion at Wimbledon in 2011, went desperately close last year when he was beaten in four sets by Rafael Nadal.

It is a match Djokovic believes he might just have won, had the rain not begun to fall shortly after he had won eight games in a row to win the third set and go a break up in the fourth. Nadal used the break to recharge and when they returned the next day, the Spaniard duly took his seventh Roland Garros title.

Twelve months on, Djokovic has already beaten Nadal on clay this year, in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters and despite a couple of relatively early defeats in Madrid and Rome, he believes he can win the title this time round.

“I feel good, I feel confident,” Djokovic said last week. “I've had a good year so far, and three titles so far and unexpected defeats but you win and you lose and I don't expect to win all the matches.

“I don’t underestimate the opponents and there are many players outside of the top 4 or 5 that can surprise. There are many dangerous players who are more confident in matches with the top players where they have nothing to lose and they get a confidence boost from winning. I am working hard day by day with a great team and everything is going in the right direction.

Djokovic shrugged off an ankle injury to win in Monte Carlo and having won his sixth grand slam title at the start of the year in Australia, the 26-year-old knows how to get the job done when the pressure is on.

“I believe that I can go all the way now,” he said. “I know I can play well on clay. It’s a very long tournament – two weeks - so I don’t want to make any predictions because it’s not necessary. I think I need to take it step by step now. I need to get ready. I need to practise more and hopefully I’m going to be in top shape for Paris.”

Nadal, who has won six of eight tournaments since returning from seven months out with injury in February, will doubtless have something to say about it but Djokovic has won five of the last nine grand slam events. If he wins in Paris a fortnight on Sunday, he will deserve his place among the elite.

Follow the French Open live on ITV and at itv.com/frenchopen

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