'Has to make a big move': Legend's warning for Novak Djokovic

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
Pictured here, Novak Djokovic has a laugh during preparation for the ATP Cup in Melbourne.
Tennis legend Mats Wilander says Novak Djokovic needs to win more grand slams in 2021 if he hopes to surpass Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Pic: Getty

World No.1 Novak Djokovic "has a chance" to equal Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's record of grand slam singles titles this year, according to tennis legend Mats Wilander.

The seven-time grand slam winner has backed Djokovic to add a record-extending ninth Australian Open title to his impressive major haul this year.

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Wilander said he would "be surprised" if the 33-year-old didn't win again at Melbourne Park this year but insists he needs to add more majors in 2021 to give himself the best chance of surpassing Federer and Nadal.

"I would be surprised if Novak Djokovic didn’t win the men's title (in Australia). It will be very, very hard to beat him," Wilander said.

"Novak Djokovic has a chance to reach 20 Grand Slams this year.

"In fact, I think if he wants to overtake Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, he has to make a big move this year because the younger ones will provide more and more challenges in the coming years."

World No.3 Dominic Thiem looms as the biggest threat to Djokovic from tennis' younger brigade after breaking through for his opening grand slam title at the US Open in 2020.

The Austrian finally cracked the big time when he produced a historic comeback to beat Alexander Zverev in a nervy five-setter and win at Flushing Meadow.

It followed three previous defeats in finals of tennis majors, including last year's Australian Open where he lost a gripping clash with Djokovic.

Like Wilander, former women's Wold No.1 Justin Henin says she can't see anyone other than the Serbian star lifting the Australian Open trophy again in 2021.

"The men's draw is easier to predict and has a more obvious favorite: Novak Djokovic," Henin said.

"The Australian Open is made for Novak Djokovic. The situation this year is different, but after what happened at the US Open and Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic will want to show again that he is the boss.

"We always have to rely on Rafael Nadal, on Dominic Thiem, who is now a grand slam champion, and I also like Daniil Medvedev a lot," she added.

World No.1 ready to go after blister issue

Djokovic struggled with blisters after playing just one of two sets at last week's Adelaide exhibition event, with the 33-year-old gearing up for Serbia opening ATP Cup match on Tuesday morning.

After a wildly successful debut in 2020, the ATP Cup kicks off in more subdued circumstances in Melbourne on Tuesday with Novak Djokovic looking to get champions Serbia off to a flying start against Canada in the truncated team-based event.

Last year's tournament featured 24 nations and played to packed houses across the country, but the upcoming event has been reduced to 12 teams and all the action will be confined to Melbourne Park due to COVID-19 biosecurity measures.

Crowd capacity for this year has been capped at 25%.

The competition will nonetheless provide a form guide for next week's Australian Open, with most of the Grand Slam's top male contenders representing their nations after a mandatory 14 days in quarantine.

Seen here, Novak Djokovic poses with some Aussie tokens after an Adelaide exhibition match.
Novak Djokovic played one set at the Adelaide exhibition last week after initially withdrawing due to a blister issue on his right hand. Pic: Getty

Djokovic, unbeaten in eight ties, was majestic in last year's tournament as he fired Serbia to a 2-1 victory over Spain in the final, including a straight sets win over Rafa Nadal.

There will be no easing in for the world number one as he faces Canada's rising talent Denis Shapovalov at Rod Laver Arena in their Group A clash, a mouthwatering rematch of last year's quarter-final.

Djokovic says he feels like being "home" after returning to Australia, where he won the first of his 17 grand slam crowns.

"It does feel like a home for me in Australia, in Melbourne, particularly in Rod Laver," said Djokovic.

"That is by far my most successful tennis court in my career. Had some profound memories in the last 15 years, and you know, won my first Grand Slam back in 2008.

"Had probably the most exciting matches played on this court, and definitely the longest match ever that I played was in the finals, almost six hours with Rafa (Nadal) in 2012."

with AFP

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