Why Novak Djokovic Will Finish 2021 With 20 Major Titles

Novak Djokovic with the Australian Open trophy
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Novak Djokovic captured his 18th Grand Slam title with his Australian Open victory, bringing him within two of the record held by both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. After a mid-tournament injury scare, Djokovic dominated the later rounds–showing why he has been nearly unbeatable in Melbourne. With the level he has played at to start this year and in the two years prior, he has a real shot at winning two more Slams this year to reach 20 in his career. He has an excellent chance to win Wimbledon, and a there’s good chance that he gets one of the other two.

Novak Djokovic at the Grand Slams in 2021

French Open

The French Open will obviously be the toughest for Djokovic to win–due to Rafael Nadal still playing. Nadal has been dealing with back issues so he may be vulnerable, but the 13-time champion is still the clear favorite. Djokovic does have a chance, though, because he has proven his abilities on clay over the rest of the field. He showed this last season in the two events he played on clay. Djokovic won the Rome Masters while dropping just one set all tournament. In the final he defeated Diego Schwartzman, who had topped Nadal earlier in the tournament. He followed that up with a strong run to the final at the French Open, where he was beaten convincingly by Nadal. He just captured his first clay title of 2021 in Belgrade. Djokovic had respectable results all season, though he fell to Nadal in the Rome final.

Djokovic is an elite clay court player and has the talent to win any clay court tournament he enters. Though he has beaten Nadal on clay before, the Spaniard has been near unbeatable in Paris, so Djokovic’s chances depend on Nadal’s fitness and draw. Nadal will potentially have to go through players such as Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev before a semifinal clash with Djokovic. Djokovic has a much more open draw and lucked out, drawing Roger Federer as his potential quarterfinal opponent. If Nadal’s fitness is a concern or he has trouble with his draw, Djokovic will have a real opening to be the first player in the Open Era to capture the career Grand Slam twice.

Wimbledon

Wimbledon is Djokovic’s best chance to win another Slam in 2021. He will be the clear favorite to add to his five titles in a tournament he has excelled at since Roger Federer’s decline. His biggest advantage will be over the top younger players who have not yet taken to grass courts. Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Daniil Medvedev are all elite players who can compete with the “Big 3.” However, none of them have quite taken to the grass courts yet. We have seen players like John Isner, Kevin Anderson, and Roberto Bautista Agut make finals and semifinals in recent years. They are all talented players, but do not provide the challenge to Djokovic that a Medvedev or Zverev does on hard courts. Nadal will be a serious contender, but his health–plus the French Open being moved back, giving less recovery time for Wimbledon–will make it challenging for the Spaniard to contend for the title.

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Roger Federer will likely be playing, but Djokovic beat him in the 2019 final. The Serbian was far from his best that match and will likely not give Federer a chance that good again. Federer also is a complete wild card with his lack of matches this year, and it would be a shock if he gave Djokovic a real challenge. Djokovic has been hard to beat in London, winning four of the last six Wimbledon Championships. One of those two losses was a retirement due to injury. His abilities on grass will make him the heavy favorite. And while some big servers have stopped him in the past, if he his healthy he should have no problem winning the Wimbledon title.

US Open

While the US Open has been the most winnable Grand Slam in tennis over the past decade or so, no one will want it more than Novak Djokovic. As we all remember, he was disqualified last year in a tournament he was heavily favored to win. He has had surprisingly little success in New York, winning just three titles, the least of the “Big 3.” His hard court skill is unparalleled. After all, he holds the most (or is tied for the most) titles at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Shanghai, and Paris. He had looked strong at the tournament in 2020 and appeared to be on the way to his fourth title before the default, so there is no question that he has what it takes to win the tournament this year.

While there are many strong hard court players in the game right now, Medvedev is the #2 player in the world and had absolutely no answers for Djokovic in the Australian Open final. Like Nadal, Djokovic does have health questions of his own, and the US Open falling at the end of the long season has hampered him in the past. However, he seems to be planning a lighter schedule this year to preserve his body and focus on the Grand Slams. Djokovic is the top hard court player in the game and one of, if not the, best of all time on the surface. If he is healthy and focused he will be hard to stop at the US Open.

Summary

While the GOAT debate between the “Big 3” will always be never-ending, Djokovic will add serious credit to his resume by equaling the previously unthinkable feat of 20 Slams set by Federer and Nadal. Injuries have stopped him in the past, and they may be the only thing potentially in the way of finishing 2021 with 20 Grand Slams. At his age, he will be as hungry as ever to reach the number as soon as possible. This year opens up the perfect chance with Djokovic still at the top of his game. And while the strong NextGen players are getting closer and closer, they have still failed to reach his level. His dominant victory in Melbourne proved that he is the player to beat this season. Looking at that, Novak Djokovic will win two of the three remaining Grand Slams to end the year with 20.

Main Photo from Getty.