French Open: Can Djokovic complete the quest for a career Grand Slam?


Fred Perry. Don Budge. Rod Laver. Roy Emerson. Andre Agassi. Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal.

Seven names to have completed the Holy Grail in men's singles tennis - a career Grand Slam of the Australian Open, French Open, US Open and Wimbledon.

Last year, Novak Djokovic was an overwhelming favourite to join the pantheon of greats, as he booked his place in the French Open final against Stan Wawrinka.

The Serbian had negotiated his way through a draw that was about as tough as they come, seeing off clay specialist and nine-time champion Nadal in the last eight before edging nemesis Andy Murray in a five-set classic in the semis.

All was seemingly going to plan as he took the first off Wawrinka, but the Swiss upset the odds to storm back and clinch the second major crown of his career in a 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 victory.

It was a desperately disappointing defeat for Djokovic, and the third time he had fallen at the final hurdle at Roland Garros, with the previous two coming against 'King of Clay' Nadal at the peak of the Spaniard's powers.

So what of this year's chances for the world number one to join the elite club?

Djokovic enjoyed a stellar start to 2016, clinching a sixth Australian Open title - the 11th major crown of a sparkling career.

Further victories on the hard courts at Indian Wells and Miami ensured he maintained his momentum, before he laid down a significant marker with a win over Murray on clay at the Madrid Open earlier this month.

His progress was checked slightly when Murray avenged that defeat a week later at the Internazionali d'Italia, in a match that saw Djokovic show an uncharacteristic loss of temper as he argued with the umpire.

But Djokovic is now a major force on all surfaces, and his hopes of career Grand Slam glory are enhanced by the somewhat ailing fortunes of his closest rivals.

Federer was forced to pull out on Thursday following a 2016 which has thus far been plagued by knee and back problems and Nadal is not the force he once was, even on the dirt. Wawrinka has been struggling badly for form, failing to progress beyond the last eight in any of the five ATP 1000 events this year.

Seemingly the greatest threat to Djokovic's quest is Murray, who will take confidence from his success in Rome as the Scot displayed further evidence of his own impressive improvement on clay.

But Djokovic more than any other man on the Tour in recent years has shown an almost unwavering resilience.

Surely, eventually, the French Open and the career Grand Slam will be his. A major opportunity passed him by 12 months ago. Do not bet on history repeating itself this time around.