Day 3 - Under the lights: Will experience be enough?

With 24 Grand Slam titles and 427 weeks at No.1, Novak Djokovic is the greatest male player of all time. But even he is human

 - Alix Ramsay

Let’s be honest: this has been a rough year for Novak Djokovic. He has already lost six matches – two of them in the past couple of weeks – and it is only May. Last year he lost seven matches over the course of 11 months and was one set away from winning the Grand Slam (Carlos Alcaraz derailed him in the Wimbledon final); this year, his form is a world away from that level. Yes, he is concerned but is he worried? Not really, although he is a little shy of explaining why.

“I almost feel a bit embarrassed to say what my expectations are,” he said, smiling sheepishly. “Anything but a title for me is not satisfactory. 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.

“I know what my qualities are. I know what I'm capable of. And if I have the right conditions in terms of the way I feel physically, mentally, game-wise – and then of course you need some luck as well on a given day when you're playing matches against the best players in the world – things come together and you win a slam. I've experienced that 24 times in my career.”

Novak Djokovic / Yannick Noah Day 2023©Clément Mahoudeau / FFT

Djokovic has experience, right enough. No man in the history of the sport has ever had more. But will it be enough?

Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Tuesday will not be an easy start to the defence of his title but, then again, at the moment, every player is proving difficult. He admits that finding any consistency has been beyond him lately. Delicately sidestepping any mention of injury issues (that would be, he thought, like opening Pandora’s Box) but he pointed out that he has been here before.

“I have had several of these particular situations in my career where I had to find a fresh start,” he said, “and I was managing to do it. In some instances earlier and in some instances a bit later, but I was managing to find the right game, the right mindset.

“I know exactly what I need to do in a Grand Slam environment. It's a whole different type of tournament and feel for the tournament than any other.”

And good year or bad for the world No.1, it is hard to argue with that logic.