Rod Laver's Verdict: Novak Djokovic's Name on the Trophy

Rod Laver named Novak Djokovic as a clear Australian Open favorite

by Jovica Ilic
Rod Laver's Verdict: Novak Djokovic's Name on the Trophy
© Vince Caligiuri / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Legendary Rod Laver arrived in Melbourne from his home in California, visiting his home Major and the court that carries his name. Laver had no doubts when the journalists asked him to pick the men's favorite. The legend backed Novak Djokovic to chase his 11th Australian Open trophy next Sunday, offering his rivals little chances to dethrone him.

Laver praised Djokovic's serve and groundstrokes, acknowledging someone would have to play at the highest level to beat him. Struggling with the virus, Novak had to work hard in his first two clashes at Rod Laver Arena, beating Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin in four sets, spending over seven hours on the court.

Djokovic felt better a couple of days later, defeating Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the third round 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 and moving into the last 16. The Serb faced no break points, stealing his rival's serve three times in sets one and two and prevailing in the third to remain on the title course.

Novak Djokovic, Australian Open 2024© Daniel Pockett / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Novak tamed his strokes nicely and had the upper hand in the shortest and more advanced rallies, setting the fourth-round clash against Adrian Mannarino.

Djokovic served well in the opener and clinched a break in the sixth game after the rival's backhand error. The Serb held at love at 5-3 to wrap up the set and move in front after 44 minutes. Nothing changed in the second set, with Novak serving well and challenging his rival to follow those numbers.

Djokovic broke Etcheverry in the third game, moving in front and opening a 5-3 gap with a forehand winner in game eight.

Rod Laver picks Novak Djokovic as the clear Australian Open favorite.

World no. 1 grabbed another break in game nine, opening a 6-3, 6-3 advantage after an hour and 22 minutes.

Tomas consolidated behind the initial shot in the third set, following Novak's pace and holding with ease in games ten and 12, introducing a tie break. Djokovic moved 2-0 up and placed a deep return in the third point to extend the gap.

The Serb landed a service winner in the fifth point and passed his rival at the net in the next one for a massive 5-1 advantage. Novak created four match points with a service winner and fired another powerful serve to emerge at the top and enter the second week for the 16th time in Melbourne.

"Novak has all the shots and knows exactly when to use them. Novak is priming himself to reach another Australian Open final, and its like it unfolds in front of him. Novak is a great champion with a great serve and unbelievable strokes.

Unless someone miraculously delivers the best tennis, they can start putting part of Novak's initials on the trophy now," Rod Laver said.

Rod Laver Novak Djokovic Australian Open