Novak Djokovic had to deal with his first real setback in his extraordinary 2021. The world number 1, who won the first three Slams of the season, failed to grab the gold medal at the Olympics of Tokyo, yielding to Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.
Ahead of a set and a break, the Serbian star was the victim of a psycho-physical collapse that cost him a lot, having lost ten of the last eleven games of the match. The 34-year-old from Belgrade has decided to skip both of the American Masters 1000 to recharge his batteries, in order to be ready for his appointment with history.
If he were to triumph at the US Open, Nole would in fact become the second player in the Open Era (after the legendary Rod Laver) to complete the Grand Slam. With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal out of the game, Djokovic will have to pay particular attention to Daniil Medvedev and Sascha Zverev, who have appeared in excellent shape in recent weeks (the Russian won in Toronto and the German in Cincinnati).
In a long exclusive interview with the 'Tennis365' portal, former WTA star Daniela Hantuchova analyzed the prospects of the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
Hantuchova talks about Novak Djokovic
"This is his personality, he's not Rafael Nadal, he's not Roger Federer," Daniela Hantuchova said.
"It shows how much Novak Djokovic cares and how competitive he is. I think it's good that all three are so different in so many ways and it allows us to enjoy what they have done over the last 20 years for our game." Hantuchova went on to opine that failing in Tokyo could be a blessing in disguise for Novak Djokovic, as it would motivate him to prove a point at the US Open.
"I feel losing in Tokyo could be good for him because he is always good at reacting to a setback and everything is lined up for him to do it," Hantuchova said. "But we have seen with Serena Williams that the pressure can be difficult when you are so close to something so special.
He will face pressure trying to do something so special, but this is when he feels the most comfortable for me, when he has pressure. I still feel like Novak is a level above them all in the best of five matches," Hantuchova said.
"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."