Dominic Thiem has given his verdict on Novak Djokovic’s chances of winning the Calendar Slam this year – and picked out which “four or five” players could stop him and Rafael Nadal from sweeping the Grand Slams.
Djokovic came close to becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in the same year when he won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in 2021, but then lost to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final.
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But how likely is it that he will win all the remaining three majors?
Former US Open champion Thiem told Eurosport and Casper Ruud’s
that Djokovic and Nadal are still the top players to beat at the majors, but there are now several strong challengers.
“I have the feeling that there are many players now who can beat those two guys [Djokovic and Nadal],” said Thiem.
“There are great guys there, but obviously, also those two, three when Roger [Federer] was there, they were still one level above all the others, especially in the Slams, especially when it came to the best-of-five.
“For the whole tennis world it would be nice to see one last showdown in Roland-Garros, obviously, but Novak will still be the man to beat in the Grand Slams in 2023.
“The only tournament is Roland-Garros: if Rafael is fit there, it’s exactly the opposite. He’s the man to beat, obviously, when he won the tournament 14 times, it’s crazy.
“But if you see the performance of Novak at the Australian Open, which was incredible, he’s going to be probably the favourite at Wimbledon and the US Open as well.”
Among the challengers at the next Grand Slam – the French Open – will be Ruud, who made last year’s final, and world No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz.
Alexander Zverev could also be in contention as he continues to recover from a serious ankle injury which he suffered in last year’s French Open semi-finals against Nadal.
Asked who he thinks could push Djokovic and Nadal at the majors, Thiem said: “There is, of course, Carlos Alcaraz. I saw the finals at the US Open. I watched the highlights of these finals many times and the level was great, the level was incredible.
“But I have the feeling that if Casper, if Carlos, are playing at this level, they can also beat Novak and Rafa at the Grand Slam tournaments. No doubt about that.
“Then Stefanos [Tsitsipas] obviously, I don’t think he had his best day in the finals of the Australian Open. Sasha [Zverev] is on his way back as well.
“And yeah, there are definitely four or five guys who can beat anybody in the Grand Slams and that’s what makes it even more exciting.”
Both Djokovic and Nadal are currently out of action.
Djokovic looks as though he will miss next week’s Miami Open as United States entry laws are not set to change until May, while Nadal has been on the practice court as he recovers from injury ahead of the clay season.
World No. 4 Ruud believes fans are anticipating a “showdown” between the pair at the French Open.
Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud at the French Open
Image credit: Getty Images
“I think that is what it is going to build up to over the next couple of months.
“Roland-Garros might be the next tournament where both of them will be 100% fit and ready, and that is going to be a huge tournament for those two and for other players as well.
“It’s not a given that they will make the final, both of them, but the chances are high that they have a chance to play in a later stage of the tournament, and if they play, who is going to win that time?
“So that is sort of what I think tennis fans are hoping for, that we will see a showdown at Roland-Garros between the two of them.”
The French Open starts on May 28.
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