Novak Djokovic has never hidden his craving to be remembered as the greatest men’s tennis player of all time, but his chance to make Grand Slam history is over for now — and perhaps indefinitely.
The Serbian world number one had been the overwhelming favourite to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open, and in doing so become the first man to clinch 21 Grand Slam crowns.
His long-held number one spot could also come under threat.
“I wish him all the best. I really respect him, even if I don’t agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks,” said Nadal on Saturday of Djokovic, before the Serbian lost his court case against deportation.
Before the debacle Down Under, Djokovic appeared almost certain to surpass Nadal and Federer. He won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon last year to assert his status as the world’s top player.
Under current guidelines he could go to France to play if he returns a negative PCR test, although French President Emmanuel Macron recently said part of his Covid strategy was to “piss off” the unvaccinated.
– Young challengers –
“I don’t think it will get easier for him,” Becker told Eurosport Germany on Friday.
“If he wants to continue to focus on tennis, he has to make some changes.
Djokovic is also facing the emergence of a new set of hungry and determined younger challengers.
Medvedev denied Djokovic the US Open and a calendar-year Grand Slam last year to win his maiden major and is favourite in Melbourne to win back-to-back Slams, now that Djokovic is out.
Djokovic has occupied the world number one spot for a record number of weeks, but that could also be in danger now.
The Serbian has yet to reveal his calendar for the early part of the year, but after Australia he often takes time off, then returns for the ATP Masters tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami — both in the US, where he could face similar problems to Australia.