‘Novak Djokovic can play until he is 40’

Novak Djokovic Roland Garros Credit: Alamy
Novak Djokovic Roland Garros Credit: Alamy

Seven-time major champion Mats Wilander believes tennis great Novak Djokovic is capable of competing until he is 40 years old.

The former world No 1 also backed the 36-year-old as his favourite to win the 2023 French Open title.

Djokovic will face world No 114 Aleksandar Kovacevic in his opening match at Roland Garros on Monday.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is seeking a third French Open crown after winning the clay-court major in 2016 and 2021.

Victory would see the current world No 3 overtake great rival Rafael Nadal, who is not competing due to injury, to lead the men’s Grand Slam race outright.

Speaking on Eurosport‘s coverage on the opening day of the tournament, Wilander assessed the chances of Djokovic and world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.

“I think if Alcaraz plays his best tennis, I think that it would be very difficult for anyone to beat him,” Wilander said.

“But you have to make him play worse, and I think Novak Djokovic is one of the few guys that can actually, somehow, make Alcaraz doubt himself, make Alcaraz come up with unforced errors which he doesn’t do against other players.

“He [Djokovic] is going to get five matches before he runs into Alcaraz – that’s enough practice for Djokovic. Yes, it’s uncomfortable because you can be blown off the court by Alcaraz.

“That’s just the name of the game, that’s being 36 years old against a 20-year-old. That’s always been the case, but Novak – I think he is the favourite in my eyes.”

The three-time French Open winner then declared he thinks the Serbian has the mentality and physical ability to play for another four years.

“When you talk to Novak, he’s so humble these days. I actually think that is the main reason why he is able to keep going, because he does take it day by day,” the Swede added.

“I think he can play until he’s 40 years old, he looks so young and is so fresh. He’s keen, he’s motivated – even in interviews with me!”

Former world No 4 Tim Henman also gave his thoughts on Djokovic’s Roland Garros hopes and was unconcerned by his preparation, which was affected by an elbow injury.

“He doesn’t have to beat him [Nadal] now. It’s a great opportunity. Djokovic’s clay-court form is completely irrelevant coming into this event,” Henman said.

“Best-of-five set matches over two weeks here at Roland Garros, he’s won before, I certainly have him down as one of the favourites.”

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