"Playing for my country is the highest honor and privilege" - Novak Djokovic ahead of Tokyo Olympics 2020

Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2021
Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2021

Novak Djokovic, fresh off his sixth title at Wimbledon and a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title overall, is the favorite to win the men's singles competition at the Tokyo Olympics. And just before boarding his plane for Tokyo, Novak Djokovic talked about how much playing for Serbia means to him.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference from the Nikola Tesla airport in Belgrade, Djokovic said it is an "honor" and "privilege" for him to represent his country at the Olympics. The World No. 1 also claimed that the many wins he has under his belt this year should stand him in good stead in the Japanese capital.

"The schedule is really rough, but I feel that my preparations were good," Djokovic said. "Also, I won a lot of matches recently, which always gives you extra confidence and energy boost. Playing for my country, it is the highest honour and privilege for me."

Djokovic has enjoyed plenty of success playing under the Serbian flag. The 34-year-old has won the ATP Cup and the Davis Cup in previous years and has now set his sights on securing a gold medal for Serbia at the Olympics.

"I am an individual athlete, rarely we have the occasion to be (in) a team," added the Serb. "I am grateful because we were able to win the ATP Cup and Davis Cup, and I am missing (the) Olympic gold now. I have the highest ambitions in Tokyo, it is not a secret that I am aiming for the gold medal.”

"The Olympics is a long tournament, and anything can happen" - Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
Novak Djokovic won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Novak Djokovic has featured in three editions of the Games but has never made it to the men's singles final.

On his Olympic debut at Beijing in 2008, Djokovic lost to eventual gold-medallist Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. The then 21-year-old bounced back to beat Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets in the bronze-medal match.

Four years later, Djokovic endured more semi-final heartbreak, this time losing to eventual champion Andy Murray in straight sets. The Serb then fell to Juan Martin Del Potro in the bronze-medal match. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Djokovic suffered a shock first-round exit after losing to Del Potro.

This year, Djokovic is the top seed in a depleted singles field. A number of top players, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, will miss the event due to a variety of reasons. That makes the in-form Djokovic a runaway favorite for the gold medal.

Nevertheless, the World No. 1 doesn't want to get too ahead of himself, noting that there are plenty of quality players in the draw despite the spate of high-profile withdrawals. The Serb pointed out that the Olympics is a "long" tournament where "anything" can happen.

“Although some players from the top are not coming, there are also a lot of elite players fighting for medals: (Daniil) Medvedev, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and (Alex) Zverev are among the favourites. They are the best, but it is a long tournament, and anything can happen," said Djokovic.

The Serb said that although the Olympics is different from other tournaments, he would approach the competition as he would any other.

“Furthermore, Olympics are specific in terms of pressure, expectations and emotions – everything is different compared to other tournaments and I know that very well, I felt it on my own skin in the past," said Djokovic. "Therefore, I will try to approach the Olympics in the same way that I approach other tournaments, so that I can stay focused on my goal.”

Novak Djokovic revels in "unique" Olympic atmosphere

Shifting his focus to the atmosphere at the athletes' village, Djokovic said he likes to watch other elite athletes prepare and train.

“It really is a unique feeling. The village: best athletes in the world share time, we eat and sleep under the same roof...," said Djokovic. "It is a valuable experience which spurred my individual career afterwards. It is interesting to see other elite athletes practicing, preparing, eating and recovering. It is fun, but it is useful as well, the knowledge you get.”
Edited by Arvind Sriram
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