"Pete Sampras 2002 vibes" - Mark Petchey speculates on Novak Djokovic's potential retirement after massive push for elusive Olympic gold at Paris 2024

Novak Djokovic (L) and Pete Sampras (R)
Novak Djokovic (L) and Pete Sampras (R)

Former British tennis player turned analyst Mark Petchey has suggested that Novak Djokovic might retire from professional tennis after making a final push to clinch the elusive gold medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Petchey's speculation follows on the heels of the Serb's shock exit from the Italian Open.

After an atypical start to his 2024 season, Djokovic was on the hunt to secure his first title of the year at the Masters 1000 event in Rome. He made a strong start to his campaign with a commanding 6-3, 6-1 win over Corentin Moutet.

However, his success was short-lived, as Alejandro Tabilo pulled off a stunning 6-2, 6-3 upset over the World No. 1 in the third round to notch up the biggest win of his career. The Serb delivered an uncharacteristic performance in the clash, with Tabilo breaking his serve four times without facing a break point in the 68-minute encounter.

Following Novak Djokovic's unexpected defeat, Petchey took to social media and speculated about the 24-time Grand Slam champion potentially making a "massive push" to win the one prestigious title missing from his trophy cabinet - the Olympic gold - before bidding farewell to the sport. He also drew a parallel to Pete Sampras making a similar effort in his 2002 season.

Nevertheless, the Brit emphasized that he still considers Djokovic to be one of the biggest favorites to triumph at both the French Open and Wimbledon.

"Anyone else getting a Paris Olympics massive push for the one thing Novak doesn’t have and then Au Revoir to tennis? Starting to get Sampras 2002 vibes. Still have him in the favourite category for RG and Wimbledon but to be this great for so long takes incredible sacrifice," he posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Petchey's comparison between the Serb's 2024 season and Sampras' 2002 season stems from the American suffering early exits at the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon that year before triumphing at the US Open, clinching his 14th Grand Slam title.

Although Sampras didn't officially announce his retirement from tennis until 2003, the 2002 US Open marked his last appearance on the professional circuit.

"Who knows if I'll have another chance" - Novak Djokovic on Paris Olympics 2024 possibly being last chance at gold medal

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has made no secret about his ambition to win an Olympic gold. The Serb recently expressed confidence in his ability to secure the elusive prize at the Paris Games and emphasized how honored he is to represent Serbia at the "prestigious" event.

"Well, I'm thinking about it and I, I think it is possible if I don't think it's possible, I probably would not be playing Olympic Games. So, you know, you always have to believe that everything is possible in life," Djokovic said during a press conference at the 2024 Laureus World Sports Awards.
"And the Olympic Games are the oldest and most prestigious sporting events in the history of the sport. It's a huge honor to be representing Serbia in the Olympic Games," he added.

Djokovic also acknowledged the possibility that the upcoming Paris Olympics could be his final appearance at the global sporting event and expressed his desire to remain healthy enough to compete.

"So I hope I can be healthy and fit and I hope I can play my best tennis because at the end of the day, who knows if I get another chance to play the Olympic games. They only come every four years," he said.
"I said recently that I would really want to play at least till LA Olympic Games, but you never know, you know at this stage what can happen or how far I can go. So I'll try to use this opportunity as best possible," he added.

The 2024 Paris Olympics are set to commence on July 26, soon after the conclusion of the Wimbledon Championships.

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Edited by Urvi Mehra
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