Alex Corretja says Novak Djokovic was “playing with fire” as he risked missing out on his calendar Grand Slam when going a set down to Kei Nishikori, but the Eurosport expert expects the world number one to now be at his very best going into the second week of the US Open.
Djokovic suffered a rocky start to his third-round match against Nishikori, losing the first set before upping his standards and reeling off the next three to protect his ambitions of becoming the first man to win all four Grand Slams in the same calendar year since Rod Laver in 1969.
And having suffered a wobble against Nishikori, Corretja is confident that Djokovic will now be tuned up and ready to deliver on his very best form going into the second week at Flushing Meadows.
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Djokovic is now just four matches away from the calendar Grand Slam feat – the first of which comes against American youngster Jenson Brooksby on Monday.
“I think Novak wasn’t sure about the gear he was playing,” Corretja said of the third-round match against Nishikori.
“I think he was playing too slow at the beginning and then he was recovering very much. And then second, third and fourth set he looked better but of course he needs to be careful because when you start playing with fire sometimes you can burn yourself.
“For me it was a very important moment against Nishikori because he hasn’t played too many matches during the summer time here in the States so he needed to like struggle a little bit.
“First round okay he lost one set but he knew he was going to be right away to win, but he knows that Nishikori can beat you and that’s what I think, for him it was just great to get into the fourth round this way because from now on, everything is going to be totally different, much more dangerous.
“If you didn’t get through tough situations in the whole summer since the Olympics, it would have been too long. So I think he is going to be ready and in the second week we will see the best of Novak.”
Also speaking as part of Eurosport’s Cube presentation around the US Open, Mischa Zverev said that Djokovic’s biggest opponent now is arguably himself, as he aims to win the final four matches which will give him another slice of tennis immortality.
“I don’t know what it feels like but I can imagine that every day you are waking up feeling like there is so much pressure and you just try to do every little thing perfectly right,” Zverev said.
“Because to be able to win this tournament he has to beat not only great guys but he also has to beat his own thoughts and questions. It’s a very hard task but if someone can do it, it’s Novak right now.”
Djokovic said winning the French Open this year was like scaling Mount Everest, giving him the belief that he could achieve a remarkable calendar Grand Slam.
“After I won in Paris this year, I felt like, 'OK, I like my chances on grass, I won two Wimbledons in a row, I've improved over the years on grass’ - it did not seem impossible anymore to go for all four in a row in the same year," he said. “So here I am. I'm in a good position to do that. Still in the tournament. But I've got to take one match at a time.
“Probably the greatest Grand Slam career satisfaction I had is when I won four in a row back in 2016 when I crowned it with the first Roland Garros trophy.
"Even though I grew up playing on clay, I feel like Roland Garros has always been probably the Mount Everest for me. Out of all four Slams, that was the toughest for me to win.
“Both 2016 and this year's win on French Open feel kind of similar. I felt if I win Roland Garros in that year, I have a good chance to maybe do it all in same year, calendar Slam."
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