Patrick Mouratoglou knows a thing or five about tennis. He has coached such great players as Serena Williams and Simona Halep (for all that is worth). So as Mouratoglou watched Serena age and decline, he might also see the same kinds of signs in Novak Djokovic.
Only Mouratoglou doesn’t yet see those same signs in the Serbian great. In a recent interview with Tennis365, Mouratoglou admits there is no real precedent for Novak Djokovic. No one that has ever played has been as fantastically excellent and for so long as Djokovic. But three players in Mouratoglou’s view might be catching up to Djokovic, but not yet surpassing him.
Mouratoglou also has a good idea of why Djokovic gets a lot more boos than Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer ever got. The coach says simply, “Rafa and Roger were the biggest superstars of tennis, but Novak came in and beat both of them and the crowds hated him for that.” Hard to argue with that.
There might also be the theory of where Novak Djokovic is from, Serbia. Novak Djokovic’s country is simply seen in a different light than Federer’s Switzerland – that fun and neutral country where one can ski – and Nadal’s Spain – the nation with lots of beaches and spicy food. Serbia is eastern European which tends to be looked at more starkly and is only a few decades removed from involvement in the bloody Yugoslav Wars. I am not saying that this is the main reason crowds boo Djokovic, but maybe somewhere in the recesses of prejudices, that thinking exists.
Are three players truly gaining on Novak Djokovic?
But as far as the three players Mouratoglou says might be gaining on Djokovic? That would be Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner, and Holger Rune. All three are 22 years old or younger. Alcaraz has the single biggest win over Novak Djokovic as Alcaraz defeated Djokovic in a thrilling five-set match in the 2023 Wimbledon final. Djokovic leads the all-time head-to-head between the two 3-2 but only because he won the last two meetings in late 2023.
While Djokovic leads the head-to-head with Jannik Sinner 4-2, Sinner has won two of the last three matches. This includes beating Djokovic two times in a span of two weeks this past November. If there is one player on the ATP tour who will not fear Novak Djokovic in early 2024, it is Sinner.
Djokovic also barely holds a lead over Holger Rune head-to-head at just 3-2. Plus, Rune led Djokovic 2-1 before the Serb won the last two meetings in 2023. Maybe Alcaraz, Sinner, and Rune aren’t that far off of Djokovic’s form.
But until those three players begin to consistently beat Novak Djokovic in the bigger tournaments, like Masters 1000s and Grand Slams, the argument is moot. Djokovic will remain the best player in tennis. And maybe, he will finally get the Calendar Grand Slam he wants.