World No. 1 Novak Djokovic had little trouble beating Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round of the Tokyo Olympics on Monday. Djokovic won 6-4, 6-3 in just 1 hour and 14 mins to move into Round of 16, taking another step towards the Calendar Golden Slam (all four Majors + Olympics gold medal in the same year).
The Serb is enjoying his time both on the court and off it during his stay in Tokyo. He is widely considered the most popular figure competing at the Games this year, and several other famous athletes have taken selfies with him in the Olympic Village.
Novak Djokovic referred to that experience while speaking to reporters after his win on Monday, and claimed that the interaction with other athletes is what makes the Olympics so "special"
"I'm having a lot of fun on the court and I'm having a lot of fun in the village," Djokovic said. "For individual athletes like us, this is a very unique experience. It is special for any athlete to be part of the Olympic Games representing his or her own country."
"There are 10,000+ athletes in the village," he added. "You're walking past them and having a little chat, dining next to them, training next to them, recovering next to them, talking about life, about sports. That's really something that we don't get to experience at all."
"The Olympics is the only place where you get to feel that team spirit," Djokovic went on. "That energy that I try to thrive on and use for my performance, and it has been working well so far."
Novak Djokovic has been turning heads lately not just because of who he is, but also because of what he has a chance to accomplish this year. Djokovic's bid for the Calendar Golden Slam has been the talk of the sporting world lately, and the Serb acknowledged on Monday that all the attention towards tennis has made him "very happy".
"I'm representing my country and myself, but I'm also representing tennis," Djokovic said. "So it (the attention) is a huge honor, honestly. I am very happy to see there's a lot of attention towards tennis players. There's a lot of people that follow tennis and give us support. For me of course it feeds me with good energy to perform well."
"I try to focus on that," he added. "I know there is a lot of following and a lot of expectations. I know history is on the line, (it) is in my thoughts, it's in my heart. But I've got to keep things quite simple for me in order to get to the desired destination."
Novak Djokovic says it was "the right decision" to come to Tokyo
A month ago Novak Djokovic was in two minds about participating in the Olympics, given the fact that there are no spectators allowed in the stands. But he finally made the decision to play, much to the delight of his fans.
When asked whether he felt forced to travel to Tokyo because of people's expectations after his Wimbledon win, Djokovic claimed that the decision was based entirely on his mental state.
"I didn't allow any pressure from anybody," Djokovic said. "I switched off actually; I was with my family and I spent three, four days after the Wimbledon finals. Didn't really use my phone much at all and just needed that time to recover and rejuvenate a little bit so I could have a clear mind for the decision-making process - whether I wanted to come to Tokyo or not."
"As I said in London, for me one of the biggest obstacles to coming here was the absence of crowds," he went on. "I felt like after playing three Olympic Games, it's not like it's my first Olympic games, so I felt maybe I didn't know whether I wanted to come and play in front of the empty stadium."
"But there were a lot more positives on the other side of things - like what I've just talked about (the experience in the Olympic village) and of course representing my country at the most important sports event in history," Djokovic added. "That prevailed, and I'm happy because once I made a decision I was very clear that it was the right decision and I'm just enjoying myself very much here."
Novak Djokovic is potentially 11 matches away (four in Tokyo and seven at the US Open) from completing the Calendar Golden Slam. When asked whether he had any such countdown in his mind, the Serb admitted that it was hard to avoid thinking about the history that is at stake for him right now.
"I'm very much aware of that, and I know what's on the line," Djokovic said. "There's a lot of expectations on my back, particularly from Serbia and all the athletes that are following me, and I'm privileged to be in that position to be honest. When you talk about the history of the sport that you truly love, you can't be just very flat about it."
I'm emotionally, obviously very pumped and I'm inspired to make the history of my sport, and sport in general," he added. "But at the same time it has to be balanced with the short-term goals and routines and ability to be in the present moment and really focus only on the next challenge and the next game."
"So it's kind of a mix of the two," the 34-year-old went on. "I have that guiding star that is there and I see it; it gives me light and it gives me energy. But at the same time I gotta stick to the stuff that I know works well on a daily basis."