World no. 1 Novak Djokovic has been the player of the season so far, winning two ATP titles and claiming the inaugural ATP Cup for Serbia at the beginning of the year. The 17-time Major champion defended the title at the Australian Open after that thrilling triumph over Dominic Thiem in the final after trailing two sets to one, taking well-deserved rest and returning to action in Dubai last week.
Chasing the first crown in the desert since 2013, Novak saved match points against Gael Monfils in the semis and defeated the young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas in the title match for his fifth trophy in Dubai. Novak has been impressed with the progress of the upcoming stars, aware of the fact they will challenge him, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the Major titles in the years to come.
Asked about the finest server among them, Djokovic picked Reilly Opelka, praising the initial shot of the big American and comparing it to his compatriot John Isner. Novak is yet to face Reilly but he believes it would be very tough to return his booming serves even for him, one of the best returners of all time.
The young American has already served more than 1500 aces in a career and held in 91% of the service games, standing as a dangerous rival against all the opponents when his initial shot is on fire. "I have not played against Reilly Opelka yet.
Because of his height, he resembles Isner a lot and has the toughest serve among the young players," Djokovic said. "Most of these next-generation players, they're very tall. Because of their height, they have extremely powerful serves that give them a lot of free points.
Like Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Karen Khachanov, they all have big serves and it's tough to pick one. They have slightly different techniques and everything but they're very powerful; they go through the court very quickly.
You saw Stefanos has been serving regularly over 200, 215, with the first serve. Sometimes you don't want to be on the opposite side when the missile is coming that way. I've been fortunate that I could and I still can rely a lot on my return that has served me pretty well."