Djokovic thoughts with homeland on brink of French Open history
Novak Djokovic of Serbia serves the ball during his ATP Rome's Tennis Masters final against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Foro Italico in Rome on May 18, 2014 - by Gabriel Bouys
The seven-time Grand Slam winner is only missing Roland Garros to become the eighth player in history to have won all four Slams but disastrous floods in his native Serbia and the rest of the Balkan region have left him troubled.
He opens with a first round match against Portugal's world number 41 Joao Sousa and could face Canadian Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals before a potential last four tie against Roger Federer.
Defeating Rafael Nadal to win the Rome Masters last weekend was the perfect tonic heading to the French capital and the fact that the Spaniard defeated him during the past two editions in Paris, the win was a double boost.
"The tournament win in Rome came at the right moment for me. For my confidence level it's definitely a booster and positive thing, and hopefully I can carry that confidence coming into Roland Garros.
"It's obviously different than the Rome tournament. It's a Grand Slam. It's two‑weeks long event, best of five, and there is a feeling that most, almost all of the players who are participating in the event have an extra motivation to perform well in this tournament comparing to the other events.
Since Nadal defeated the number two seed in the 2013 US Open final, Djokovic has won their last four encounters including Beijing, the World Tour Finals in London, the Miami Masters and most recently in Rome.
"The last few years have been quite successful for me in Roland Garros, especially the last two where I played finals and semi-finals and lost in both of the matches against Nadal.
"He has the best record on clay and best record here in Roland Garros, and obviously still No. 1 favorite to win the tournament this year.
"But, you know, I have played some epic matches against him, especially the one last year in the semifinals when we went the distance and I think it was 10-8 in the fifth.
"The Rome title and the Rome win in the finals against Nadal is something that, you know, winning against Nadal on clay is something that doesn't happen every day.
"So it definitely helps my confidence, my self‑belief. And I'm healthy and obviously very motivated and inspired to play my best tennis here.
Although Djokovic has one eye on the Roland Garros trophy, another emotional concern is the fate of Serbia and the surrounding countries that have been devasated by flooding and infrastructure damage.
"It's devastating times. The floods are epic proportions. They have forced many people to flee homes and many people lost everything that they have, that they possessed, and even the loss of the close ones.
"It is one of the biggest tragedies that the countries of Serbia and Bosnia and Croatia had in their history, so the positive thing is that these nations who had conflicts very recently, 20 years ago, have at least for certain time now forgot about that and they show their solidarity and support to each other," he added after donating his Rome winnings to the recovery efforts.
"What matters is that people are starting to talk about it. We need help, of course, all three countries. We need help, and we need as much as we can get.
"It's something you can't fight. You have to just pray and hope that it can go fast.