Djokovic hunts chance at US Open to emulate Laver and surpass Federer and Nadal

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Rod Laver started the 1969 US Open final against fellow Australian Tony Roche with a double fault. "A bad start," said Jack Kramer to his co-commentator Bud Collins. Laver, the top seed, served another double fault during the game before eventually holding. Can Novak Djokovic walk in Laver's footsteps?

Roche won the opening set 9-7. But that was as good as it got for the third seed.

Laver rolled through the next three 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to claim the title on the grass at Forest Hills. It was his fourth consecutive crown that year at the four Grand Slam venues in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York - the fabled calendar Grand Slam.

It was the first full year that the Grand Slam tournaments had been open to professional players. Seven years before as an amateur, Laver had also won a calendar Grand Slam.

Just over five decades later on the hard courts at Flushing Meadows, Novak Djokovic possesses the chance to emulate Laver's feats.

He could also eclipse his contemporaries by hoisting a record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

Injuries adding up

The 34-year-old Serb equalled Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in July when he saw off Matteo Berrettini at Wimbledon to win his 20th title.

Number 19 arrived in June when he came from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas at the French Open in Paris.

In January, Djokovic battered Daniil Medvedev to lift a record-extending ninth Australian Open and an 18th singles title.

Neither Federer, nor Nadal will be in New York to attempt to stop Djokovic. Federer is away nursing a wounded knee while Nadal is looking after a foot injury.

Truth be told, Federer's days of stopping Djokovic over five sets appear long gone. The Swiss last beat him at a Grand Slam event at Wimbledon in 2012.

Since then Djokovic has outwitted him at Wimbledon in three finals as well as at the 2016 and 2020 Australian Opens.

Opponents

Nadal has fared slightly better with a victory most recently in the French Open final in 2020.

Second seed Medvedev has never outmuscled Djokovic over five sets nor has Tsitsipas who is seeded third.

Fourth seed Alex Zverev has also failed to see off Djokovic at a Grand Slam.

It leaves the world number one with the psychological advantage: as well as his vat of experience.

Laver received a winner's cheque for 16,000 dollars after crushing Roche. Should Djokovic lift the men's trophy on 12 September on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 2.5 million dollar prize money will be a mere bagatelle.

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