Novak Djokovic can become the eighth man to claim a career grand slam in the French Open final on Sunday when he takes on Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka, who has described the world No 1 as a “machine”.
Djokovic takes a 17-3 career lead into his clash against the popular Wawrinka whose win over the Serbian in the 2014 Australian Open quarter-finals put him on the way to his only major title.
It also broke an eight-year losing streak against the eight-time grand slam trophy winner.
Djokovic will be playing in his third French Open final having lost the 2012 and 2014 championship matches to nine-time Paris champion Rafael Nadal.
But having handed Nadal just his second loss at Roland Garros in the quarter-finals and then seeing off world No 3 Andy Murray in five sets in a semi-final yesterday, which had stretched over two days, the 28-year-old world No 1 is primed for history.
Only Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Nadal have won all four majors.
But Djokovic also has even greater objectives in sight – victory over Wawrinka would put him halfway to a calendar grand slam, a challenge so daunting that only two men – Budge (1938) and Laver (1962 and 1969) – have completed it.
“It is obviously very encouraging knowing that I have won all of the big events from last October, and playing some of my best tennis,” said Djokovic, who has lost twice in 41 matches in 2015, is on a 28-win streak, and has already claimed a fifth Australian Open as well as Masters titles at Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome this year.
“But I have been in this situation before when people were speculating, is this the year or not?
“Can I win the title or not.”
Djokovic insists that having to come back yesterday to play another hour to finish his semi-final against Murray after a Friday night suspension will have no bearing on his physical fitness for today’s match.
“It wasn’t physically an easy match, that’s for sure, but I think I will be fine for the final,” the Serb said.
“Whatever rest I have in me, whatever I have left in me I will put out on the court tomorrow, and hopefully it can be enough.”
Djokovic and Wawrinka have met six times on clay and the Swiss has won just one of those – in Umag in the pair’s first clash in 2006 and even that was through a retirement from his opponent.
Djokovic also came out on top in their most recent battle, a five-set marathon in the Australian Open semi-finals in January where the world No 1 clinched the deciding set 6-0.
But Wawrinka, who put out Federer in the quarter-finals at Paris, insists his poor record will not be a factor today as he bids for a second major title.
“He’s a machine,” the 30-year-old Swiss said.
“But, again, he has never won the French Open.
“Maybe he’s going to play his best tennis and beat me straight sets.
“But I shouldn’t forget that my game can bother the top players and when I am in form I can seize the opportunity to defeat them all.”
It has been a long road to the business end of the majors for world No 9 Wawrinka.
It took him 36 grand slam tournaments and nine years to make his first final at Melbourne last year.
“My dream was to play Roland Garros, not to win it, not to reach the final,” said former junior champion Wawrinka.
“To me, the players that did were mutants. But to reach the final here and in Australia last year is exceptional.
“I will try and enjoy it as much as I can. Tennis is an extreme sport in terms of emotions – in a good way and a bad way.
“You should make the most of these moments and enjoy them fully.”
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