Novak Djokovic is heading to the Australian Open as the two time defending champion and looking to win a record breaking seventh title. In the open era, only Pete Sampras (Wimbledon), Roger Federer (Wimbledon) and Rafael Nadal (French Open) have won 7 or more titles at a single Grand Slam tournament. Out of Djokovic’s 12 Grand Slam titles, 8 have come on hard courts.
Even though Djokovic is not the top seed this year, he is still the favourite to win at Melbourne. Apart from Sir Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, there isn’t a player on tour who poses a threat to Djokovic’s Grand Slam bid. Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal are back but one, they are seeded really low and could meet Djokovic in the early rounds itself and two, they don’t possess the firepower to beat Djokovic at the Australian Open. When Nadal couldn’t do it in 2012, he sure cannot do it now.
The last man to beat Djokovic at the Australian Open, Stan Wawrinka (2014 SF) is dangerous no doubt. He did beat Djokovic at the 2016 US Open Final. In fact he has beaten Djokovic en route all three of his Grand Slam triumphs. Although, Djokovic would be looking to avoid a Wawrinka clash, the superstition in Wawrinka on the other hand might not be too worried.
What has everybody talking right now is the possible final between World No. 1 Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Djokovic leads Murray 25-11 in career head to heads, winning 13 of their 16 meetings since the 2014 summer. Even though he did not fair well in the second half of 2016 which led Murray to claim the No. 1 ranking and the World Tour Finals, Djokovic will use every trick up his sleeve to reclaim the top spot. Djokovic is tired of answering questions relating to his post French Open downfall last year and what better way to put a rest to this discussion than by winning his 13th Grand Slam title at his favourite destination.
When push comes to shove in these taut contests, there remains the feeling that he still has the material to unseat Murray when he desires. He is the only player in the sport who can manage such a lofty feat, but then again Murray is the most obvious clear and present danger to Djokovic’s recent dominance at the Slams (maybe apart from Stan Wawrinka on hard courts). Now more than ever before.
If there is a psychological edge to be gleaned from such moments, Djokovic departed Doha with more than just a grand trophy. He is world number two only in name. I think it is comfortable to say that the headlines on 29 January would read as “Novak Djokovic on ‘seventh’ heaven”