It's no secret that Novak Djokovic has the 2023 Australian Open in his sights. If he triumphs for the 10th time at Melbourne Park, the Serbian star would catch up with his eternal rival, Rafael Nadal, with 22 Grand Slams. The 35-year-old from Belgrade also wants to take revenge for last year's exclusion, with expulsion from the country.
In the second half of 2022, Nole proved that he is still the man to beat by winning five titles - including Wimbledon and the ATP Finals - and finishing the year in the Top 5. Djokovic's 2023 started off in the best possible way, having disposed of Constant Lestienne quite easily in the first round of the ATP Adelaide.
The one led by Goran Ivanisevic has shown that he is already in top form and that he is willing to leave very little to his rivals at this stage of the season. The 21-time Slam champion has always had a special bond with Australia, where he has delivered perhaps the best tennis of his entire career.
In an interview with "L'Equipe", Lestienne analyzed his performance against Djokovic. "It was a great experience, really. Obviously, it's not the best thing in life to face Novak Djokovic in the first round, but it's also true that you learn a lot from these types of matches," Lestienne said.
"It will be a good story to tell my kids. I had never faced a player of this caliber before today (yesterday, ed), so I was a little nervous before going out on court. I didn't know if I would be up to the task. I started the match well, even had a breaking point and saw Novak get nervous.
At the time I thought he could win, seriously! I know it may sound stupid, but I really believed it." Novak Djokovic expressed his disappointment and empathized with Carlos Alcaraz. "He is not good for the tournament or for tennis.
He is the number 1 in the world. Such a big name, a big star already in our sport," he said.
Alcaraz is a real star
Carlos Alcaraz's impact on tennis means he "could be the single most important player we have ever had", reckons seven-time major winner Mats Wilander.
"I have said that I think if Alcaraz can keep winning - and I've even told [Alcaraz's coach] Juan Carlos Ferrero this in private - he could turn out to be the single most important tennis player that we have ever had in our sport.
People are going to say, what do you mean? Isn't Roger Federer...? Isn't Rafael Nadal...? Yes, they are absolutely, incredibly important. But here you have a guy who is trying so hard, he is so fast, he is playing with so many different shots, and he's serving and volleying at 15-30.
He's 19 years old! He's hitting drop shots at 15-30, he's 19 years old! Then he dives, and at the end of it, he's smiling and he's laughing."