LONDON: Having finally rid himself of his French Open curse, Novak Djokovic is chasing a third successive Wimbledon title to move one step closer to the first calendar Grand Slam in 47 years.
The 29-year-old world number one, champion at Wimbledon in 2011, 2014 and 2015, has become the unstoppable Slam machine.
His victory over Andy Murray in Paris gave him a 12th major, taking him to within two of Rafael Nadal’s mark and five behind the record 17 of Roger Federer.
But Nadal is missing from this year’s Wimbledon, nursing a wrist injury, while seven-time All England Club champion Federer is without a major in four years and a shadow of the player he once was.
World number two Murray, the Wimbledon champion in 2013, remains Djokovic’s only serious rival but the British star has a 10-24 career record against the Serb.
Djokovic has won 13 of their last 15 meetings and hasn’t been defeated by Murray at a Slam since the Wimbledon final three years ago.
Djokovic currently holds all four majors and is targeting becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar Grand Slam, a feat only achieved three times in the sport’s history.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I really think everything is achievable in life,” said Djokovic, who appears to be under little pressure heading into Wimbledon which starts on Monday.
In between practice and this week’s rain, he posed for ‘selfies’ on the London underground, happily opting for public transport despite becoming the first man to pass the $100 million prize money mark at Roland Garros.
“I’m trying to cherish these moments. Whether or not I can reach a calendar slam, that’s still a possibility.”
Djokovic has reached at least the quarter-finals of every Slam since a fourth round exit at the 2009 French Open.
He is the first man since Jim Courier in 1992 to win the Australian and French Opens back-to-back.
Even Federer and Nadal failed to achieve that sequence just as the two greats were also unsuccessful in attempts at a calendar sweep.
Federer was undone by the French Open in 2004, 2006 and 2007 while Nadal’s failure to win the 2010 Australian Open was a blip in a year when he romped to victory in Paris, London and New York.
Murray, just a week older than Djokovic, will be looking for his third major after the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon trophies.
He has reunited with coach Ivan Lendl, the man who guided him to his two majors and the pair celebrated a record fifth Queen’s Club title at the weekend.
But Murray’s last two Wimbledon campaigns have ended in disappointment — a quarter-final loss to Grigor Dimitrov in 2014 followed by a straight-sets demolition by Federer in the semi-finals 12 months ago.
It’s 15 years since Federer announced himself on the Grand Slam scene when he defeated Pete Sampras in the fourth round at Wimbledon.
It wasn’t until 2003 that the great Swiss won the first of his seven Wimbledon titles, the last of which came in 2012.
Despite finishing runner-up to Djokovic for the last two years, 34-year-old Federer is struggling for form and fitness.
His injury-enforced withdrawal from the French Open ended his streak of 65 successive Grand Slam appearances stretching back to 1999.
He has since suffered semi-final losses on grass at Stuttgart and Halle, the last of which against Alexander Zverev was his first against a teenager in 10 years.
Federer’s failure to win a title in 2016 means he will enter Wimbledon on his longest trophy drought since 2000.
If he were to win Wimbledon, he would be the oldest champion since 31-year-old Arthur Ashe in 1975.
“I think if the movement gets better and then the baseline game improves a little bit, I’ll be better on the big points, on the return and also in less trouble on my own service games,” said Federer.
“But I’m okay and I’m pleased on how I played in Halle, how I’m feeling and now we’ve got enough time before Wimbledon to get ready for that.”