Day 7 - Under the lights: Back in the old routine

It is the middle weekend. We are almost half way through the tournament and the big matches are coming into sharper focus. Novak Djokovic has been here before.

 - Alix Ramsay

You would think that with 20 years on the clock, 24 Grand Slam trophies sitting on the mantelpiece and more than $182 million banked in prize money, Novak Djokovic would have had enough. The endless travel and being away from his family, the strict diet, the even stricter training programme and the constant pressure of being the one man every player wants to beat – surely, he must be tired of it by now. Apparently not.

At the age of 37 – and even with a very modest run of results behind him this year – the world No.1 is still as keen and eager as ever.

“I've said it recently that I did struggle with motivation on a constant basis,” he said, “to always have that motivation I've had for more than 20 years of professional tennis. But in terms of my commitment to the practice weeks and practice sessions, that hasn't gone down, to be honest. I show up every day on practice courts and gym and whatever I need to do fitness-wise, mental preparation, whatever it takes.” 

That said, he sets his goals higher than most people and focuses only on the very top level of the sport. The weeks and months in between the major events do not matter so much to him. 

“I'm focused pretty much solely on Grand Slams and Olympics this year, and playing for my country, really,” he said. “That's something that really drives me the most today. It is becoming a little bit more challenging for me to push myself every single tournament to be really at the top.”

Roland-Garros is, of course, one of the four biggest events in the tennis year and it is the biggest clay court tournament in the world. Firing himself up to compete here is never a problem. As for his recent form (or lack of it), he thinks that it matters not one jot.

“There is always that conviction and belief inside of me that I can win a slam,” he explained. “That's the reason why I'm still competing at this level. That's why I'm here. At this age I wouldn't really be competing if I didn't believe that I possess quality to go all the way to the title match.”

Trying to stop him on Saturday is Lorenzo Musetti, the 22-year-old new father and world No.30 in the world. It is Musetti’s second consecutive evening session on Court Philippe Chatrier (he beat Gael Monfils there on Thursday) so he will know what to expect.

But beating a crowd favourite is one thing; beating a living legend is entirely another. In five previous meetings with Djokovic, he has managed it only once.