Novak Djokovic tipped to complete the ultimate achievement in tennis

Delight for Novak Djokovic Credit: Alamy
Delight for Novak Djokovic Credit: Alamy

Novak Djokovic is preparing to make his return to the Australian Open and he is being backed to dominate the men’s game like never before in 2023.

Djokovic will play in his first Australian Open in two years after he was deported from Melbourne a year ago over his decision not to take a Covid vaccine.

Now former US Open quarter-finalist Barbara Schett has made the most lavish prediction yet of what the Serbian is capable of achieving this year.

There are still big doubts over whether he will be allowed to enter America as their government is currently still insisting on Covid vaccination for foreign visitors, but Schett has told Tennis365 that Djokovic is capable of completing a calendar Grand Slam over the next few months.

The 21-time major champion is aiming draw level with Rafael Nadal as the leader in the race to win the most Grand Slam titles in history in Melbourne.

Speaking ahead of the Australian Open, which is live and exclusive on discovery+ and Eurosport, Schett told us that Djokovic will be tough to beat in a year when he could confirm his status as the greatest player of all-time.

“I think he can win every Grand Slam this year,” Schett told Tennis365.

“He is an all-rounder. He feels comfortable on every surface. If he has 25 (majors) by the end of the year, anything is possible.

“It depends on his body. It will not get any easier, but we know he is a super professional. He is pedantic about his nutrition, he does yoga and he does so many things mentally that other players have not done.

“That is why I think he will be around for a few more years.”

Schett went on to suggest Djokovic’s absence from key tournaments due to his vaccine status last year may help him now he is back on court.

“He played something like eleven tournaments last year and he is still No 5 in the world,” added Barbara.

“Playing that little is extending his career by maybe another year. It’s not a bad thing to have a softer year.

“The younger ones are getting close to him, but he is still the favourite heading into the Australian Open.

“To play against Novak in a Grand Slam is very different. We have to see how he feels with his quad problem, but he loves Rod Laver Arena. He feels so good out there every time he play and he has to be the big favourite.

“He had some scares in his first tournament of the year in Adelaide and Sebastian Korda had a match point against him in the final, but Novak still found a way to the tournament.

“That is what these great champions do. They have an ability to win when they are not at their best and for others to beat them is so difficult both from a tennis a psychological perspective.”

Meanwhile, Djokovic received a rapturous welcome back to Melbourne Park in a sell-out practice match against Nick Kyrgios on Friday

The Australian Open has put on a series of warm-up encounters building up to the start of the tournament on Monday, culminating in this contest on Rod Laver Arena.

All of the cut-price tickets costing 20 Australian dollars (approximately £11) sold out within an hour of going on sale and any fears Djokovic may have had about the reception he would receive following last year’s deportation would have dissipated when he saw the number of Serbian flags in the crowd.

Speaking after walking on court, the nine-time champion said: “I’m very happy. Thank you so much. I feel a bit emotional. I was looking forward to coming back to this court.”

As well as the emotions of returning to Melbourne, Djokovic has been battling a left hamstring injury and wore tape on his leg, while Kyrgios pulled out of representing Australia at the United Cup because of his own leg issue.

But this was not an encounter to test either man’s fitness, with the light-hearted contest seeing Djokovic dancing on court before the two men were joined for the final tie-break by wheelchair stars David Wagner and Heath Davidson and two junior players.

Djokovic and Kyrgios both wore microphones and played to the crowd, who lapped up their antics.

Speaking afterwards, Djokovic said: “It just feels great to be back in Australia, back in Melbourne. This is the court where I created the best memories of my tennis career.”

Kyrgios was one of the few players to stand up for Djokovic last year in the row over his vaccination status, thawing what had been a frosty relationship.

“It’s just so important to have him around,” said Kyrgios. “I don’t think we knew how special these guys are to our sport.”

The Australian Open is live on Eurosport and discovery+ starting on Monday. 

 

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