Recent announcements from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal - who ended their season prematurely - have slightly diverted attention from the increasingly imminent start of the US Open. In addition to being the last Grand Slam of the year, the New York tournament takes on an even deeper value in this edition.
In fact, Novak Djokovic will have the opportunity to complete a historic 'Calendar Grand Slam' in the event of a triumph in New York. The number 1 in the world won the top three majors of 2021, taking away the satisfaction of beating several members of the Next Gen in the finals.
Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open, Stefanos Tsitsipas at Roland Garros and Matteo Berrettini at Wimbledon respectively paid for it. The only setback in the Serbian's so far perfect path came at the Tokyo Olympics, having failed to take home the gold medal.
His race was interrupted in the semifinals by Alexander Zverev, facilitated by a sudden psycho-physical decline of Nole in the second part of the match. In a long exclusive interview with 'Tennis365', former WTA champion Daniela Hantuchova took stock of the situation about a week after the start of the US Open.
Hantuchova comments on Novak Djokovic
“I still feel like Novak Djokovic is a level above them all in the best of five matches,” Daniela Hantuchova told us. “It will be interesting to see how sharp he can be without playing any warm-up events before the US Open, but he is generally in cruise control in the first week of a major and I would expect him to try and use the first week in New York to get into top shape for the challenges in the second week.
“The ones who I feel are closest to his level are Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, with Sascha (Alexander Zverev) not far behind when he is playing at his best. Over five sets, I feel Daniil is the one who has the best chance against Novak.
He is in good form. He won in Canada, he is high on confidence and he will believe he can beat Djokovic. “With Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal) not playing right now, it feels like the change is coming in tennis and I’m sure the Next Gen guys will be looking to see which one will be the first to get the breakthrough and now we have more guys behind them who are coming through and might be even more exciting”.
Hantuchova went on to suggest Djokovic will be inspired by his failure to claim a medal at the Olympics, with his angry reaction as he exited the singles and then withdrew from the mixed doubles bronze medal match evidence of his passion for success.