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Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against France’s Adrian Mannarino during their quarter final match at the Fever Tree Championship at Queen’s Club in London, Britain, 22 June 2018. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL



By Richard Pagliario


LONDON—Tennis heroes come and go.


Legends live forever.


Novak Djokovic solidified his status as one of the true tennis legends today.


Djokovic dismissed Adrian Mannarino, 7-5, 6-1, rolling into his second semifinal of the season and attaining his milestone 800th career win.


Djokovic is the 10th man in the Open Era to attain the 800-match victory milestone and he’s done it at the relatively modest age of 31.


“It’s a milestone, and of course it’s a great achievement,” Djokovic told 10sballs afterward. “Every achievement is a great achievement. I should be happy for it and proud of it. When you work all your life for something and then you get awards for it, of course—and of course also throughout your career, you’re enjoying the process, as well. It’s obviously very positive and I’m thrilled. I’m grateful, as well, as I’m able to play so many matches and to win so many matches in my career.”


Fittingly, Djokovic attained the milestone at Queen’s Club whose champions board boasts the names of all-time greats including Don Budge, Ellsworth Vines, Lew Hoad, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, John McEnroe and Boris Becker among many others.


Two years removed from his last Grand Slam title at Roland Garros when completed the career Grand Slam, Djokovic said passion propels him.


“It’s still the sport that I love with all my heart,” Djokovic said. “I put in that heart every single day, and, you know, I’m just very glad to be able to play semifinals here after Rome and Roland Garros tournaments that went pretty well for me. But before that, it was a struggle with surgery and elbow and up-and-downs and trying to figure things out and get that consistency in the game. So I’m really glad that I was able to play the way that I did in the first three matches in this tournament, and hopefully I can keep it going.”


The former world No. 1 will will try to sustain his roll against Jeremy Chardy in tomorrow’s semifinals. Chardy denied all nine break points in a 6-4, 6-4, sweep of American Frances Tiafoe in today’s final quarterfinal.


Djokovic can equal Stefan Edberg for ninth place on the all-time list by registering his 801st victory against Chardy and advancing to the Queen’s Club final a decade after he fell to Rafael Nadal in the title match.


Contesting 971 matches in his career has taught Djokovic there are inevitable ups and downs in the tennis life and learning from it all is part of the process and pivotal to sustaining longevity.


“Life comes in cycles and teaches you lessons,” Djokovic said. “Whether you’re going to learn them or not, it solely depends on you. My perception is that, you know, the strength comes within and longevity comes within as much as I, you know, pay attention to the self-awareness and self-care in every aspect of that word, you know, that much of results I’m going to reap.”


The 22nd-ranked Serbian joked he hopes to play to age 50. While that’s unlikely, if Djokovic can play as long as world No. 1 Roger Federer, he certainly has a shot to join all-time ATP victory leader Jimmy Connors (1,256 wins), Federer (1,156) and Ivan Lendl (1,068) in the elite 1,000 win club.


“I don’t know. As I said, I don’t like to put any numbers on how long and when it’s going to end,” Djokovic said. “I would rather see things, hey, I’m playing, I’m playing great, back again, I’m 31 on the paper, but I’m 19 in the real sense. I just love to keep on going and see where it takes me.”


For now, he’s aiming to continue the ride into his first final since he claimed his 68th career title in Eastbourne last June.

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