VALENCIA: Chasing an elusive Olympic gold medal will be one of Novak Djokovic’s main goals for next season even though the 24-times Grand Slam champion knows he will have to be physically and mentally ready to cope with a crammed schedule.

Djokovic won bronze in Beijing 2008 and fell short in London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo two years ago, but the Serbian who will turn 37 before the next Games begin is still fighting fit after claiming three Grand Slam titles in 2023.

The world number one also made the Wimbledon final earlier this year, where he was beaten in five sets by Carlos Alcaraz, and he is in no mood to slow down.

“My plan for now is to play the Olympic Games, so I’m hoping that I will be able to play, that I will be ready physically and mentally,” Djokovic told reporters in Valencia, where he turned up to play in the Davis Cup just days after his US Open triumph.

“It’s going to be a very congested and challenging schedule next year, with Roland Garros on clay, Wimbledon on grass, the Olympics on clay and then the US Open and the tournaments before that on hardcourts.

“It’s going to be challenging for players, but my plan is to play the Olympics, because it’s one of the most important events in the history of the sport. That’s where you also represent the country and the feeling of being part of it is a huge honour.”

Djokovic missed Serbia’s 3-0 victory over South Korea in the Finals group stage this week as he was travelling, but is likely to feature against a Spain side missing Alcaraz on Friday.

“I don’t feel very fresh, obviously, after an exhausting several months with a lot of tennis and a lot of matches but I think this is in a way a positive tiredness I feel because of the success I had in America,” Djokovic said.

“There’s not much time to recover, I have to maintain the intensity and do everything I can to adapt my body to the new time zone, new conditions and be able to contribute to my cou­n­try with a point.”

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2023

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