by Bob Stockton
After winning his ninth Australian Open title and now 18 Grand Slam tournament titles in the bank, Novak Djokovic is intent on making calculated decisions as to what events he participates in going forward. The 33-year-old Serbian superstar is eager to surpass the 20 Grand Slam crowns held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. However, the latter might have something to say about that because at 34-years-old he has more time left in his career than the 39-year-old Federer and is currently the No. 2 player in the world behind Djokovic.
In only a few weeks Djokovic will break Federer’s record for having the most total weeks as the No. 1 player in the world which will be another milestone in his illustrious career.
“Now, after achieving the historic No.1 ranking for the longest weeks at No.1, it’s going to be a relief for me because I’m going to focus all my attention on Slams, mostly,” he told the press in Melbourne. “When you are going for No.1 rankings, you kind of have to be playing the entire season.”
What made Joker’s Aussie victory even more spectacular is the fact that he played the last four rounds with a torn abdominal oblique muscle. Consider for a moment that he decimated the No. 4 player in the world, Daniil Medvedev, in a straight-set victory to take home the hardware with an injury that would have sidelined most athletes.
But Djokovic will not take any chances on the court until he is convinced the tear has healed properly and won’t inhibit him in any way. Moreover, the opportunity to spend more quality time with his young family is also a factor in the number of tournaments he enters.
“My goals will adapt and will shift a little bit, which means that I will have an opportunity to do that which, as a father and a husband, I’m really looking forward to that. Judging by what we’re seeing around the world, having family on the road with me will be a very difficult task,” said Djokovic.
Regardless of where he plays, and how often, Djokovic will be the overwhelming favorite in any event, except for the French, as he was at the Australian. Those who enjoy backing their opinions with cold, hard, cash should know tennis odds by SBR can be found on virtually all of the ATP tournaments.
The French Open Looms
As exceptional as Novak Djokovic is, there is no player more decorated or celebrated at Roland Garros than Rafael Nadal. His 13 French Open titles are beyond reproach and it is here where the King of Clay reigns supreme. This year’s event is scheduled to run from May 17-June 6, 2021 in Paris, France, and in this one and only tournament, Joker will be the underdog.
But as accomplished as Nadal is at the French, there is one former player who sees a few cracks in his armor and believes that Rafi might not be the surefire lock this year that he has been in so many of his past appearances at Roland Garros. That man is Boris Becker, the three-time French Open champion and owner of nine Grand Slam titles.
Becker points to his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Melbourne as evidence and was concerned that Nadal didn’t have the same killer instinct to put his opponent away that has been his trademark, especially after taking a two-set lead.
“His five-set defeat by Stefanos Tsitsipas will sting for some time, and could even be a factor at the French Open.
“For the first time I can recall Rafael Nadal looked really tired in that fifth set, he was beaten physically, and the others will have seen that.
“The Spaniard’s style is so physical that it is going to take a toll.
“I am actually surprised that he has played to this incredibly high level for so long.
“While it would be foolish to bet against him for Paris when he gets that little step slower he will not be the same player.”
The odds over at SBR reveal that Nadal is the favorite to win the 2021 French Open at +120 while Djokovic is next at +240 followed by Dominic Thiem (+400), Daniil Medvedev (+1600), and Roger Federer (+1600) rounding out the top five.