Tuesday 28 January 2020

Tennis: Djokovic eyes Grand Slam as French Open looms large

Simon Briggs

Novak Djokovic was still a teenager when he exchanged the family home in Belgrade for a luxury apartment in Monte Carlo, the site of the world's most famous casino.

Over the last 15 months, he has transformed his fortunes on the court too. Once a mood player who won the occasional jackpot but blew plenty more, he has learned to control himself and become the highest roller in tennis.

It could get even better. Yesterday, Djokovic embarked on a clay-court campaign which -- if successful -- will conclude with him completing the Grand Slam at Roland Garros in just over seven weeks. The bookmakers have him at 8/5 to pull it off, and if he continues to tick over as smoothly as he did while beating Andreas Seppi (Italy) 6-1 6-4 those odds are only likely to shorten.

We are not talking about a calendar Grand Slam -- a feat that only Don Budge (in 1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and '69) have pulled off -- but the simultaneous possession of all four Major titles.

"There's been a lot of speculation about that," Djokovic said. "I can't say that it (the Grand Slam) runs next to me unnoticed. I definitely look on it as a challenge, something that would mean a lot to me. Roland Garros is one of my highest priorities for this year."

Roger Federer has taken the week off, meaning Djokovic's main opposition in Monte Carlo is likely to come from Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal. Murray was in prime form against Viktor Troicki (6-0 6-3) on Tuesday, and will face Julien Benneteau this morning.

Nadal showed signs of rust yesterday in his 6-4 6-3 win against Jarkko Nieminen, understandable after a 15-day lay-off due to knee trouble. He will play Mikhail Kukushkin this evening.

Meanwhile, fifth seed David Ferrer made a shock 6-4 6-4 exit to the big-hitting Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci.

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