For No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic to achieve greatness, he has to be able to win Grand Slam tournaments. Following a second round loss in Cincinnati — the ATP Tour stop where he won the event in July — he could be a heavy favorite to end his Grand Slam drought when he opens the US Open again at Flushing Meadows.
“It was tough to watch. When you lose a Grand Slam and haven’t done it in a while, it’s natural to be disappointed. So you try to recover quickly,” Djokovic said. “In sports, when you have success, it’s always nice to do a repeat performance or try to come back in a great way.
“You always hope to come back and the chances are high. It all depends on whether you really pay attention to all the details, which I need to do, because I haven’t been on court for a long time.”
Djokovic and Roger Federer are the only two men to have captured all four Grand Slams in the same year at least once. Federer won Wimbledon in 2012, in 2014 and in 2015. Djokovic won his fourth title at Wimbledon in July.
Djokovic has won 11 Grand Slam titles including three titles at Flushing Meadows. With his 26th career Grand Slam crown — as well as 14 ATP Tour titles — he passed Pete Sampras for second place in career Grand Slam titles on the all-time list.
“I have always dreamed about winning a Grand Slam. To get that sixth one is special,” Djokovic said. “But it’s only the first round in the US Open. I still have a lot of hard work ahead of me.”
The 30-year-old Serb came off an elbow injury that cost him most of the second half of the 2016 season. Djokovic underwent elbow surgery in February, then came back and won Wimbledon before his season was cut short by the elbow injury.
“The elbow injury is probably the worst,” he said. “It was the most painful physical condition I have been in. But the mind had not changed, that is the main thing.
“It’s really taken my career, my whole life, my growth, my career, to have that healthy body, stable body. It’s the biggest challenge of my life.”
Djokovic will have to overcome some firepower on the men’s hard court portion of the tournament. Grigor Dimitrov and defending champion Rafael Nadal are both in action in the first week of the tournament.
“There are definitely two big favorites,” Djokovic said. “They’re coming in and you have to deal with their game and serve and groundstrokes. I don’t know how they’re playing. But they’re capable and well-rounded players.”
Djokovic has had more success against Dimitrov than with Nadal, losing seven times and winning only one match. He last faced Nadal when he beat him in the 2013 US Open final at Flushing Meadows.
Djokovic is now the only active man in the world’s top 10 not to win a Grand Slam title.
“I know how hard it is to win. I know it’s difficult for me to get off the bed and be ready to play again at this stage of my career,” he said. “So it’s really hard work at this time and a new challenge that you have to face.
“The No. 6 ranking is special in the Grand Slams as it is for other players.”
Djokovic left the clay-court season early to rest the elbow injury. His last clay-court victory came in Madrid in April.
But Djokovic said the main priority is winning the US Open.
“I’m in New York, that’s why I’m here,” he said. “And after New York, hopefully I can move on. But first of all, I need to win a Grand Slam.”