Tuesday, January 26

Will 2021 be the year that Novak Djokovic closes the gap on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer?

As things currently stand, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are both sitting on a whopping 20 Grand Slam titles. Federer’s absence from the tour through injury last year gave Nadal the chance to level the scores at the top of the men’s game, and he duly delivered, winning his 13th French Open last October.

But for Novak Djokovic, who is hot on the heels of Nadal and Federer with 17 Slams, the chance to close the gap even further was somewhat squandered. At the Australian Open last January, where Djokovic has tasted the most success, the Serbian landed his eighth title, taking him to just three major titles behind Federer and Nadal.

However, that was his only Grand Slam title of the year, his worst return since 2017, when he failed to win any of tennis’ big four tournaments. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic didn’t help. Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the tour schedule, pushing the French Open and the US Open back, whilst Wimbledon, which Nole has won five times, was cancelled – leaving just three Slams to compete for.

Nonetheless, you would have still fancied his chances to add to his haul of Grand Slam victories at the US Open, especially in the absence of Federer and Nadal. But after a freakish incident, which saw Djokovic strike a line judge with the ball, he was disqualified from the Flushing Meadows tournament, leaving Dominic Thiem to become the first player outside the big four to win a Grand Slam since 2014.

At the French Open, beating Nadal was never going to be an easy task, he is the ‘King of Clay’ at the end of the day. But it was a lacklustre performance from Djokovic in the final at Roland Garros. The Spaniard won rather easily in three straight sets, with Djokovic not really putting up much of a fight until the final set. But even then, it was too little too late, and Nadal won 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.

However, as a new season rolls around, it is all to play for once again for the Serbian. Looking at the tennis odds here; https://www.betfair.com/sport/tennis, Djokovic is currently the favourite to win the upcoming Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

He didn’t end the year in the best of form. His below par performances in Vienna and at the ATP Finals were a disappointing way to end a lacklustre year. But with a fresh start, he will certainly be confident of landing a hattrick of successive titles at next month’s Aussie Open.

From there, it will be back to Paris for the French Open. However, given that he has won that Grand Slam just once, it will be more a case of hoping that Nadal, who is unsurprisingly the favourite, doesn’t add a 14th title to his bursting cabinet, as that would make finishing 2021 level (or even ahead) of him on Grand Slams impossible.

Wimbledon will follow that and given his recent success at the London-based tournament; he will once again fancy his chances. With last year’s edition cancelled, Djokovic is still the reigning champion, and with four victories in the last six years, you’d fancy his chances of lifting that illustrious gold trophy again in July.

The final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open, is another hiccup in Djokovic’s hopes. The Serb has reached the final of the competition eight times but has won on just three of those occasions – not the best of returns for the World No.1.

Of course, winning three Grand Slams in one year is a very difficult feat in itself, and it is something Djokovic has achieved just twice in his career. On top of that, the competition in men’s tennis has got tougher in the last couple of years.

Thiem got his hands on his maiden Grand Slam last year at the US Open and will be hungry for more, whilst the likes of Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev, Stafanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev will all be on the hunt for their inaugural Grand Slam crowns this year.

The chances of Djokovic catching up with Federer and Nadal this year are extremely unlikely, but he should close the gap by one or two, and given the fact that he is younger than his counterparts, you would definitely expect him to overtake them in the long run.


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