Will Djokovic bite dust at French Open yet again?
TWELVE months after his latest bid to complete a career Grand Slam was thwarted, Novak Djokovic targets an elusive French Open title with time and history threatening to conspire against him.
The world No. 1 was left in tears in 2015 when Stan Wawrinka unleashed a battery of single-handed backhand winners to all corners of Court Philippe Chatrier on his way to a shock Paris coronation.
Djokovic turns 29 on Sunday and will be playing Roland Garros for a 12th time where he remains the overwhelming favourite to secure a trophy, which would also place him halfway to the first calendar Grand Slam since 1969.
But tennis is littered with great names whose Grand Slam pedigree endured shattering reality checks on Roland Garros' unforgiving crushed red brick surfaces.
Pete Sampras won 14 majors but the great American failed in all 13 attempts to win the French Open.
Stefan Edberg also made 13 fruitless visits while Djokovic's coach Boris Becker tried nine times.
Djokovic, with 11 majors under his belt, has come closer than all of them.
He has been runner-up three times and a semi-finalist on four occasions.
His record in 2016 reads 37 wins and just three defeats although two of those came on clay - against Jiri Vesely in a freak Monte Carlo opening-round exit and a loss to Andy Murray in last weekend's Rome final.
World No. 2 Murray is shaping up as Djokovic's greatest threat.
He may be 8,000 points behind in the world rankings but the former US Open and Wimbledon winner has developed a taste for clay relatively late in his career.
Murray's three career titles on clay have all been in the last 12 months - Munich and Madrid in 2015 topped off by Rome.
His 6-3, 6-3 win over Djokovic at the Foro Italico came on his 29th birthday.