Published On: Wed, Jun 7th, 2023
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Novak Djokovic surpasses Roger Federer and hunts down Rafa Nadal at French Open | Tennis | Sport

Novak Djokovic has revealed he goes into mental “lockdown” during tiebreaks after overtaking Roger Federer as the best sudden-death player of all time. And the Serbian superstar is now only two wins away from leaving Rafa Nadal behind as the greatest male star in history.

The Serbian superstar has yet to make an unforced error in five tiebreaks at the French Open. And the world No.3 admitted he was “perfect” in taking the crucial second set tiebreak against Karen Khachanov 7-0 to set up a semi-final showdown with Carlos Alcaraz at Roland Garros.

“I kind of held my nerves in the tie-break of the second, played a perfect tie-break, really. 7-Love,” he said. “Every point was perfectly scripted for me, so to say. Amazing tie-break. Every single point I played it in a perfect manner.”

Djokovic is now 307-162 for tiebreaks in his career – a winning percentage of 65.5%. Federer finished his career with a 65.4% winning percentage (466-247).

The Serb famously won three tiebreaks to beat the Swiss in his last Grand Slam final at 2019 Wimbledon – including the first ever final-set tiebreak – despite Federer outplaying Djokovic in most categories.

Djokovic continued: “In the tiebreak, the format is such that you serve every two points. Every point matters. Really, every point can decide in which direction a tiebreak is going to go.

“So I think it’s kind of a mentality of a lockdown: ‘Okay, I’m present, I’m focused only on the next point’ and I have to really think clearly about what I want to do, obviously depending on who you’re facing in a given opponent.

“Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. I think I was lucky that throughout my career I have a very good and positive score in the tiebreaks. My opponents know that, and I know that. So I think mentally that serves me well. Coming into every next tiebreak, I know I maybe have that mental edge so I try to use it.”

This season Djokovic has a 14-4 (77.8%) record in tiebreaks and he is 8-1 in Majors, including winning both in the Australian Open final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Wimbledon champion entered the French Open on 22 Grand Slams – level with 14-time champion Nadal who is out for the rest of the year following hip surgery.

Before the tournament, the world No.3 said: “It’s no secret that one of the main reasons I play today and compete in professional tennis is to try to break more records and make more history in tennis. That’s extremely motivating and inspiring for me.

“History being on the line is something that is very flattering and is very motivating, no doubt about it. Obviously Nadal not playing in the tournament here is a big loss for tennis, is a big loss for Roland Garros, because he’s by far the most successful player to play in this tournament in history. So of course it opens up a chance and opportunity for the rest of us to try to get a title.”

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