SYDNEY (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic says next week’s Australian Open is wide open and while bookmakers see the seven-times champion as the hot favorite the Serb expects the current crop of young talent to push for glory at the season’s opening Grand Slam.
Djokovic recorded a ninth consecutive hard-court win over world number one Rafa Nadal on Sunday as Serbia were crowned champions at the inaugural ATP Cup team event in Sydney.
Djokovic also downed 2019 U.S. Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev, former Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson and rising stars Denis Shapovalov and Christian Garin at the tournament, showing no signs of the elbow issues that resurfaced at the end of last season.
Despite his ominous form, defending champion Djokovic expects a stiff challenge from long-time rivals as well as the new generation.
“I think it’s really open, the Australian Open or any other slam,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think there are really clear favorites. You have obviously (Roger) Federer, Nadal, myself because of the experience and everything and the rankings that we get to be probably named the top three favorites.
“But then you have Medvedev, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem that are really showing some amazing tennis.”
The ‘Big Three’ of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have shared the last 12 Grand Slam titles but the Serb said Tsitsipas’s triumph at the ATP Finals in November showed the young guns are ready to battle for major honors.
“They showed that they matured on the big stage, that they can challenge the best players in the world and win against them,” Djokovic added.
“So everybody keeps on talking about NextGen player winning a Slam. It seems like it’s getting closer. Hopefully not this year. We’ll see.”
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)