2020 started out so well for Novak Djokovic. Victory at the Australian Open asserted his position as the best player in the world, and it looked as though the Serb was on course to enjoy a hugely successful year as far as Grand Slam performances were concerned.
But once the coronavirus pandemic hit, everything seemed to go downhill for Djokovic. He faced criticism for his conduct during the pandemic-enforced lockdown, and then was defaulted from the US Open in disgrace after he struck a line judge with the ball after hitting it in frustration. He recovered his form to reach the final of the French Open, but a meek performance saw him lose in straight sets to an inspired Rafael Nadal. With Wimbledon having been cancelled due to the pandemic, Djokovic was forced to settle for just one Grand Slam title in 2020.
The new year brings a fresh start for the 33-year-old, and you can bet that he’ll be doubly determined to make 2021 a year of dominance. There’s no doubt that he’ll have been irked by the fact that Nadal’s French Open triumph put the Spaniard level with Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slam titles, and with Djokovic possessing just 17, the Serb will be hoping to land a few of the big ones this year to bring himself on par with his two rivals.
And there’s no reason why Djokovic shouldn’t excel this year. If he can cast away the bad experiences of 2020, then he has every chance of going all the way in each of the four Grand Slams set to play out in 2021. The first of these is the Australian Open, which gets underway in early February, and Djokovic is already the favourite in the Australian Open odds. It’s a tournament that he has enjoyed plenty of success in over the years, with eight titles to his name, and he’ll fancy his chances of getting his hands on the trophy for the ninth time.
Djokovic will be hoping that Wimbledon goes ahead as planned this year, as it is a Grand Slam where he can be expected to consistently do well. Indeed, he has won the men’s singles in each of the last two editions of the SW19 Grand Slam, and was bidding for a third on the trot before it was cancelled last year. With an increasingly effective grass game, Djokovic will be the heavy favourite when Wimbledon comes around.
The French Open, meanwhile, remains the greatest challenge for Djokovic when it comes to Grand Slams. He has won the title on one previous occasion – a year in which Nadal did not enter – and on many occasions he has found the Spaniard to be simply too good. But Nadal’s reign of supremacy at Roland Garros, which last year stretched to four successive titles, and 13 in total, cannot last forever, and if anyone has the ability to best him on clay, it’s probably Djokovic.
Another aim in 2021 for Djokovic will be to make amends for the ignominy which surrounded his exit from last year’s US Open. It was disappointing to see such a great champion forced out of a tournament in such a way, and the Serb will be keen to put things right and get his hands on the trophy which he undoubtedly feels he would have won last year had things panned out differently.
While 2020 proved to be a turbulent 12 months for Djokovic, what has never been in doubt is his ability on the court. If he can avoid controversy this year and focus on tennis, then it could well be a year to remember. Who knows, he could even draw level with Nadal and Federer on that list of Grand Slam titles.