Novak Djokovic is a man on a mission, this year more than ever. The number 1 in the world pursues the dream of realizing the 'Calendar Golden Slam', which would allow him to write yet another page in tennis history.
Thanks to the success at Wimbledon a few weeks ago, the Serbian veteran has already equaled his eternal rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to reach 20 Grand Slam titles. His last defeat now dates back to the final of the BNL Internationals of Italy more than 70 days ago.
The 34-year-old from Belgrade could not have started his journey at the Tokyo Olympics better, having taken the pass for the quarter-finals without giving up even a set. Bolivian Hugo Dellien, German Jan-Lennard Struff and Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina failed to put a solid and concentrated Nole in difficulty.
The next obstacle in his path will be the host Kei Nishikori. Steffi Graff was the only player able to complete the 'Golden Slam' in 1988, winning all four Grand Slams and Olympic gold in the same calendar year. The topic of mental health is also taking center stage in this edition of the Games, especially after the utterances of Naomi Osaka and gymnast Simone Biles.
At a press conference, Djokovic expressed his opinion on the matter.
Djokovic's only Olympic medal was bronze in singles
“Pressure is a privilege, my friend,” Novak Djokovic said in answer to a reporter's question after winning both of his matches at the Ariake Tennis Park on Wednesday.
“Without pressure there is no professional sport,” Djokovic added. “If you are aiming to be at the top of the game you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments — on the court but also off the court.
All that buzz and all that noise is the thing that, I can’t say I don’t see it or I don’t hear it, of course it’s there, but I’ve learned, I’ve developed the mechanism how to deal with it in such a way that it will not impose destruction to me.
It will not wear me down,” Djokovic said. "I feel I have enough experience to know myself how to step on the court and play my best tennis”. Djokovic's only Olympic medal was bronze in singles from his first Olympic appearances at the 2008 Beijing Games.
He then lost to Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in his next two Games: in the 2012 bronze-medal match and the first round at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. “Rio was (a) very tough loss for me,” Djokovic said.
“I came into Rio as also a big favorite, winning four out of last five Grand Slams, No. 1 in the world. So I know that feeling; it’s kind of a similar feeling now. But I’m a more experienced player; I know mentally what I need to do and how to work things around on and off the court in order to feel the best that I possible can feel”.