Novak Djokovic is delighted that he has joined the likes of Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl by winning his eighth grand slam title at the Australian Open.
But the world No 1 has already set his sights on becoming just the eighth player to win all four of the game’s biggest tournaments by claiming a first French Open in Paris in June.
Djokovic defeated Andy Murray for the third time in a Melbourne final to win his fifth Australian Open title on Sunday, adding to his two Wimbledon titles and the 2011 US Open. The 27-year-old Serb has twice lost to nine-times winner Rafael Nadal in the final at Roland Garros but believes he has the clay-court game to finally complete a full set of grand slam titles.
“It’s incredible to be able to win eight,” Djokovic said. “I still feel, as a 27-year-old, I have years to come. Hopefully, if I stay healthy and have this disciplined professionalism and commitment, I think I have a fair chance to get myself in another position to win a grand slam or two or three.
“I am happy with where I am in my life and to be able to join the elite group of players like Agassi and Lendl who won eight grand slams is quite remarkable and I am very proud.
“Most of the players will tell you it’s important to have the mindset that keeps you in the present moment and, once something is done, you move on and try to focus on the next one because that allows you to work and reset your ambitions and your goals.
“But I think you have to be honest and say you think about the number of grand slams you won and tournaments you won and what your place in history is. I definitely have that in the back of my mind and I am very pleased with my accomplishments so far.”
Djokovic reached the French Open final in 2014 and 2012 and has been in four other semi-finals, but is well aware that one player in particular stands in his way of success in Paris.
Nadal has an incredible record of 66 wins and just one defeat at Roland Garros and Djokovic added: “I wasn’t too far from winning a title both times when I lost to Rafa but it’s a grand slam on the slowest surface that is physically the most demanding. That’s something that makes it more difficult in terms of winning against Nadal. He has lost only one match in his entire career, which is probably the most impressive record in tennis history of all time.
“It’s very important [winning the French Open] but, if I don’t succeed in doing that in my career, it’s not the end of the world but I am definitely going to keep trying. I have been very very close and that allows me to believe I can make that final step and that’s something that keeps me going.”
Sunday’s win saw Djokovic improve his career record over Murray to 16-8 but he has some sympathy for the fact that the Scot has won “only” two grand slam titles so far.
Djokovic said: “He is there and, if he won a couple more matches, he would have maybe five grand slams now and it would be a different story.
“On the other hand, I could as well maybe have won a few more. But this is the generation we are in. There are four players that are incredibly good and very few points decide the winner.
“I believe they [Federer and Nadal] made me a better player, and also Andy. They made me understand what I need to do to improve my game to get on the level where they are.
“You can maybe think, if I was in another era, I would be in double figures already, but everything happens for a reason. I am sure Andy is disappointed not to win a few more grand slams but he is also a better player as a consequence of being a rival of the other three guys.”