ATP

Nadal expects Djokovic to finish with the most men's grand slam titles

By Sports Desk December 02, 2021

Rafael Nadal conceded that Novak Djokovic will likely end his career with the most grand slam singles titles in men's tennis history, ahead of the Spaniard and Roger Federer.

The so-called 'Big Three' of tennis have long dominated the ATP Tour, with all three sitting on 20 major titles after Djokovic collected three from a possible four in 2021.

Djokovic, who secured a year-end number one ranking for a record seventh time, would have completed a clean sweep if it were not for Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final.  

Nadal, by contrast, missed large parts of the season with a foot injury, while Federer was similarly ruled out for a substantial period after requiring a third knee operation in the space of 18 months.

Nadal could make a return for the Australian Open in January, an event that the world number one may miss due to a vaccine mandate, but he still expects Djokovic to hold the record for major titles when the trio has retired.

"Djokovic is best positioned to be the [men's] player with the most grand slams," Nadal said to Movistar.

"You don't have to fool yourself – Federer is where he is and I am where I am. However, Djokovic is playing well and in a good moment.

"That is the reality, and you can't ignore it. We don't know what is going to happen in nine months' time, but he is the favourite right now."

Nadal triumphed at Roland Garros in 2020 but has only appeared at two majors since, while Federer – who hopes to return to tour-level action in 2022 – last collected a grand slam title at the Australian Open in 2018.

Nadal is glad that the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Medvedev, who only dropped one set across the entire tournament as he denied Djokovic the perfect year, are taking over.

"They are no longer the Next Gen, we do not have to make it eternal," Nadal said of the new 'Big Three' in tennis.

"Players like Medvedev, Zverev or Tsitsipas have already passed that stage of the Next Gen, they are the current generation, the present."

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    Australian Kyrgios has dramatically changed his tune on the Serbian, but not in the way many have altered their perspective following recent events.

    Djokovic was deported from Australia in the hours before the Australian Open got under way, a consequence of his own failure to get a COVID-19 vaccine and seemingly mixed messages from authorities before a court settled the kerfuffle.

    His behaviour in December after a positive COVID-19 test has been widely criticised, and the reputation of arguably the greatest tennis player of all time has taken a battering in the past fortnight.

    Kyrgios recently observed the treatment of Djokovic, a nine-time champion of the Melbourne Park grand slam, had been "really bad" and said it was important to "do better" by the 20-time slam winner.

     

    The 26-year-old from Canberra has emerged as an unlikely cheerleader for the player he described as "a tool" and "a very strange cat" last February, after Djokovic was reported to have requested improved quarantine accommodation on arriving in Australia.

    Now Kyrgios is revelling in his apparent sudden popularity in Serbia, where Djokovic's banishment from Australia was greeted with anger and dismay.

    "I mean, it's great," Kyrgios said of his new standing. He then turned his focus to why he has stood up for his new friend.

    "Obviously me and Novak have had some, I guess, differences in the past. But whether it was Novak or someone else, I would have done the same thing," he said.

    "I didn't do it because he was Serbian. If it was another player in that scenario, I would have stood up for what I think was right.

    "I think it was just coincidentally it was Novak, and, you know, it was quite a story. But we've got a bit of a bromance going on now, so I'm not going to complain.

    "I think I'm going to ask him to play doubles somewhere."

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    Kyrgios, meanwhile, faced a daunting second-round match in Melbourne, with title favourite and de facto top seed Daniil Medvedev awaiting him.

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    Kyrgios produced some superb if often unorthodox tennis as he booked a second-round clash with world number two Daniil Medvedev, who is the highest-ranked male in the draw following the refusal to allow Novak Djokovic to compete.

    The 26-year-old would like to return to John Cain to aid his chances of improving his record against the Russian to 3-0.

    "It's going to be a hell of an experience for me," he said. "He's probably 'the' best player in the world at the moment. So I'm pretty excited, I'm excited for that moment. That's why I play the game.

    "I feel like those matches still excite me, to go out there and play the best in the world. That was always something I wanted to prove to people that someone like me could do, win those matches.

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    "As I said, he's probably the best player in the world, he does everything extremely well. He's a hard worker, ticks all the boxes. I'm not going to even think about that now. To play it on John Cain would be – I'm just going to call it the Kyrgios Court – would be fun."

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