The Grand Slam chase remains one of the main reasons why Novak Djokovic is still playing tennis and he is hoping to draw level with Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open in a fortnight’s time.
Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer finished the 2021 season level on 20 majors, but Nadal pulled away as he won back-to-back Slams at the Australian Open and French Open last year.
However, Djokovic moved to within one of his record of 22 after winning Wimbledon and if he is the last man standing at Melbourne Park this year then he will be on level pegging with the Spaniard once again.
Asked if Nadal’s milestone is a motivating factor, the Serbian replied: “Of course, it is. That’s why I keep on playing professional tennis, competition tennis, because I want to be the best, I want to win the biggest tournaments in the world. There is no secret about it.
“It doesn’t get bigger than this. You have four Slams that historically have been the biggest events in our sport.
“It’s also one of the biggest reasons why I was really looking forward to come back to Australia: because of my record here.
“I really love playing in Rod Laver Arena, particularly night sessions. I’ve had plenty of success that hopefully can continue this year.”
Djokovic picked up a hamstring injury during last week’s Adelaide International and he pulled out of a warm-up game on Thursday, but then played against Nick Kyrgios the following day.
He also ended Sunday’s practice early, but played down the injury.
“It’s hopefully not [of] major concern,” he said. “So far I’ve been able to train, compete and play points, practise sets. So that’s a positive sign.
“Obviously, I’m being a bit more cautious. I’m not going full out on the training sessions, conserving the energy for next week. Hopefully it won’t cause an issue for me then.”
The nine-time champion will open his 2023 Australian Open campaign against Roberto Carballes Baena from Spain at 09:15 GMT on Tuesday.
One of his rivals Nick Kyrgios, who has gone from enemy to frenemy, is delighted the 21-time Grand Slam winner will return to Melbourne Park this year following last year’s absence.
“ I t’s so important to have him around,” the Australian told Channel Nine.
“Obviously one of the greats has already left us last year in Roger [Federer], and I don’t think we actually know how special these guys are to our sport.
“So every time Novak is around at these events I want to beat him even though I can’t at a Grand Slam.
“It’s very important to have him around because he’s one of the most important for our sport.”
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