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Djokovic has 'low expectations, high hopes' for French Open

Record-chasing: Novak Djokovic practises at Roland Garros (ALAIN JOCARD)
Record-chasing: Novak Djokovic practises at Roland Garros (ALAIN JOCARD)

Novak Djokovic said on Sunday he has "low expectations and high hopes" for the French Open after a turbulent season so far in which he has failed to win an ATP title.

The world number one will kick off his bid for a fourth Roland Garros crown and record-breaking 25th Grand Slam triumph when he takes on French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Tuesday.

His win-loss record this year is a disappointing 14-6 and he is yet to reach a final.

Djokovic arrives in Paris off the back of a shock semi-final loss at a low-key warm-up event in Geneva to Czech Tomas Machac, after which he said he was "worried" about his form.

"Low expectations and high hopes," Djokovic told reporters when asked how he felt heading into the tournament.

"I almost feel a bit embarrassed to say what my expectations are.

"Anything but a title for me is not satisfactory. So it always has been like that. I know it might sound arrogant to a lot of people, but I think I have the career that backs it up."

The last time Djokovic went into the French Open without a title in the calendar year, he was dumped out in the 2018 quarter-finals by unheralded Italian Marco Cecchinato.

When the Serbian star lifted his men's record 24th Slam at last year's US Open -- his third major title of 2023 -- it appeared as though he was set to dominate again this season.

But he is still waiting to break out of a tie with Margaret Court for the all-time record of Grand Slam titles after losing to eventual champion Jannik Sinner in the Australian Open semi-finals.

"In a way, me playing still at this highest level, one of the major reasons is trying to write more history of the sport and win the biggest titles," Djokovic added.

"Paris is definitely one of them.

"So that's why my hopes and goals are always the same, but I have to lower the expectations.

"When I say that I mean, maybe not thinking too much ahead in advance in terms of the tournament and who I might face in the later rounds, but really taking it day by day, step by step, and really building my game.

"Because that's what I have really been struggling with, not really playing in a consistently good level."

- 'Know what to do' -

Djokovic has suffered several surprising defeats in recent months -- losing to then world number 123 Luca Nardi in Indian Wells and 32nd-ranked Chilean Alejandro Tabilo in Rome.

But none of the 37-year-old's rivals can match his experience of reaching the latter stages of Grand Slam events.

"I know exactly what I need to do in a Grand Slam environment," he said.

Rafael Nadal is back at a major for the first time since the 2023 Australian Open and Djokovic hopes to find time in his busy schedule to watch his old rival's mouthwatering first-round clash with fourth seed Alexander Zverev on Monday.

"I'll definitely watch. I have obligations during the day, but I will try to catch as much as I can from that match.

"I think everyone will want to see what will happen."

The only way Djokovic and Nadal can meet for a 60th time in the coming fortnight is if they face each other in the final for a fourth time.

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