Aussie tennis great Todd Woodbridge said that without COVID-19, Novak Djokovic could have won all four majors last year – but mishaps in New York and Paris have left the world No.1 scarred.
“When he won the Australian Open, he was about to go on a rampage,” Woodbridge said on Wide World of Sports’ The Morning Serve.
“If it had been a normal year, I think he could have won three of the four, he may have won four of the four.”
Instead, he was infamously kicked out of the US Open for smacking a ball at a line judge, and was then comfortably beaten by Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
“[These incidents] have some scarring that he has to get over … I think last year, mentally, has a bit of scarring which he somehow has to get rid of,” Woodbridge said.
Australian Open: Novak Djokovic v Aslan Karatsev
The three-time doubles champion at Melbourne Park said that tonight’s men’s singles final will be a test of Djokovic’s mental strength moreso than physical.
“He’s still the best player in the world,” Woodbridge said.
“For me, it’s a bit about how mentally he sits in this match tonight. Because it’s been such a different year – and such a different tournament. To have fans, no fans, fans back, how does he react to that?
“That’s been a big part of his story when he’s on the court, using the fans as energy, whether that’s positive or negative.”
Medvedev silences the crowd as he wears out Tsitsipas
Djokovic has a chance to win his ninth Australian Open tonight, and his third in a row. But standing in his way is Russian Daniil Medvedev, who has won 20 straight matches, dating back to late last year.
The 25-year-old is one of a slew of young guns looking to dethrone the big three of Djokovic, Nadal, and Roger Federer.
Australian quad wheelchair world No.1 Dylan Alcott praised the ‘stone cold’ attitude of Medvedev, and said all the pressure is on Djokovic.
“This guy’s never lost in the final, he’s going for the records, I’m a nobody – it’s all on you,” Alcott said of Medvedev’s mindset. “I love that.”
Australian Open: Naomi Osaka v Jennifer Brady
Fresh off titles in both the singles and doubles in the men’s quads, Alcott said that “the gap is definitely closing” between the old guard and the new crop.
“We saw Stefanos [Tsitsipas] take out Rafael Nadal, Medvedev can get it done tonight and beat Novak. Then there’s a case that that baton is getting passed on,” he said.
“It’s exciting to see these young guys really start taking it up to the big players – I think we need that in tennis.”