Novak Djokovic likes nothing better than munching on Wimbledon’s Centre Court turf on men’s final day and after setting up what he billed as the “ultimate showdown” with Carlos Alcaraz, he now wants to gobble up a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.
“He’s very motivated. He’s young. He’s hungry. I’m hungry, too, so let’s have a feast,” joked the Serbian who has bent down to eat a handful of grass from the most famous tennis arena after each one of his seven Wimbledon triumphs.
Djokovic has made no secret of his insatiable appetite to hoard more and more records as he looks to leave every rival, especially those whose names crop up in the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) debate, in his shade.
For the first time in his career, Djokovic stands alone on top of the men’s Grand Slam totem pole after he won the French Open last month to secure a 23rd major — moving ahead of his great rival Rafael Nadal on the all-time winners’ list.
But that achievement has only fuelled the 36-year-old’s burning desire.
Considering he honed his skills in a drained swimming pool converted into a makeshift tennis court while NATO was bombing Belgrade in 1999, it is not difficult to understand why winning the biggest prizes in tennis means so much to him.
“Maybe some people think that it would be a huge relief for me winning Roland Garros, being the only men’s tennis player with 23 slams. It’s not,” Djokovic, who turned up for his news-conference wearing a forest green sweatshirt, baseball cap and watch, said ahead of contesting a record 35th major final.
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“It’s no secret that Grand Slams are the highest priority for me, the highest goals on my priority list. Every time I start the season, I want to peak at these four tournaments.
“I feel that the job is not finished until I lift the trophy.”
Djokovic now stands one win away from equalling Roger Federer’s men’s record of eight Wimbledon titles and if he hoists the pineapple-topped gilded Challenge Cup on Sunday, he will draw level with Margaret Court’s haul of 24 majors – an all-time record the Australian has held for 50 years.
Even at the age of 36, there is no sign that Djokovic’s aura of invincibility is fading as the Serbian has won six of the last 10 slams.
Even though Alcaraz recently dethroned him from the top of the world rankings, Djokovic is still considered the man to beat and still has the power to turn opponents into nervous wrecks as the 20-year-old Spaniard discovered during their Roland Garros semi-final.
Alcaraz admitted that the stress and tension of facing Djokovic brought on the debilitating cramps that ruined his chances of winning that showdown just five weeks ago.
No doubt he would have learnt a lot of life lessons from that distressing episode, and the way Alcaraz has been playing at Wimbledon means the Serbian will face a player that John McEnroe describes as being “better than Federer, Djokovic and Nadal were at 20. This guy is amazing”.
“If I win, it could be amazing for me — not only win a Wimbledon title but do it against Novak would be super special,” said U.S. Open champion Alcaraz.
“I always say if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Novak is one of them. Would be great if I’ll do it.”
Despite his young age, the Spanish top seed has already captured 12 titles and appears to have wasted little time in feeling at home on grass as he demonstrated during his three-set destruction of third seed Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals.
While physically he appears to have no weakness, Alcaraz knows he will have to match Djokovic’s mental powers if he is to reverse the result from Paris.
“He’s amazing. He does nothing wrong on the court,” Alcaraz said as he bids to end the Serbian’s 10-year unbeaten run on Centre Court.
“Physically he’s a beast. Mentally he’s a beast. Everything is unbelievable for him.
“I’ll try to get onto the court with not as much nerves as I had in the French Open … I hope not to get cramp during the final. I’ll do some exercise to stay calm and to forget – or I’ll try to forget that I’m going to play a final against Novak.”
Djokovic, locked at 1-1 in their head-to-head record, was looking forward to the challenge too.
“This is probably the best finals that we could have. We are both in good form. We’re both playing well,” added Djokovic as he looks to become the oldest man in the Open Era to win the grasscourt major.
“I want to take this title without a doubt. I look forward to it. It’s going to be a great challenge, greatest challenge that I could have at the moment from any angle really: physical, mental, emotional.”