NEW YORK — During a break in practice two days before opening his US Open title defense, Novak Djokovic pulled off his blue shoe and white sock so a trainer could look at his right foot.
Did it again a little while later.
And then, toward the end of Saturday’s training session in Louis Armstrong Stadium with 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori, Djokovic stopped a sprint and pulled up short of a ball, raised his right leg off the ground entirely, and hopped repeatedly on his left, wincing. Nothing to worry about, Djokovic said later at his pre-tournament news conference: just blisters.
‘‘A minor thing,’’ Djokovic called it. ‘‘Like anybody has . . . Nothing major that is causing a concern for the event.’’
When the year’s last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena, a 26-year-old from Spain whose career-best ranking was 72nd.
Carballes Baena has a career record of 43-50. That includes 2-7 at major tournaments .
Djokovic, meanwhile, has won 33 of his last 34 Grand Slam matches en route to collecting four of the last five major titles. That allowed the 32-year-old Serb to raise his career haul to 16 trophies, putting him just two away from second-place Rafael Nadal’s total of 18, and close to Roger Federer’s 20, which is the record for men. He’s not shy about trying to catch those guys.
‘‘More or less everything is about Grand Slams, in terms of how I see tennis and how I approach it, because they matter the most,’’ Djokovic said. ‘‘So I will definitely try to play my best tennis — and aim to play my best tennis — at these events.’’
While many would attribute Djokovic’s success to his ability to return serves or his mental strength and propensity for coming up big in the biggest moments there’s something else the man himself would point to as his most vital quality. That’s the way Djokovic can cover a court.
His movement, Djokovic said Saturday, is ‘‘the base of everything’’ and ‘‘the most important thing.’’
‘‘It just allows you to be more in balance. And at the end of the day, that is what you’re looking for as a tennis player,’’ he explained. ‘‘How can you hit the ball, being in the right balance, so you can penetrate the ball with the right speed, accuracy, and precision?’’