Novak Djokovic has set a ridiculously high bar for himself. He has done this by doing things other players have never been able to do. The ATP No. 1 has won 24 Grand Slams and 40 Masters 1000s and has been atop the rankings for a combined 411 weeks (and counting). No one else can touch those numbers.
But last November, Djokovic lost to fourth-ranked Jannik Sinner twice in two weeks. To begin 2024, Djokovic lost at the United Cup to Alex de Minaur. Then in the Australian Open, a tournament that Djokovic has won 10 times, the Serb lost to Sinner once again in the semifinals. Has Sinner simply grown into possibly the top player in the men's game or is Djokovic slipping?
The answer to both is easy: It's too early to say. Sinner did win his first Grand Slam by winning the Australian Open. Djokovic is still No. 1, though, and likely to hold on to the ranking into the summer at least. He is likely still the favorite in at least two of the final three majors of the year.
Rod Laver says to press the brakes on lower expectations for Novak Djokovic
One former player that knows a thing or five about winning majors is Rod Laver. Laver only fully played two years in the Open era (which began in 1968) and Laver won five Grand Slams in those two seasons including the calendar Grand Slam in 1969. In his professional career before the Open era, Laver made the finals at 14 of the combined 15 finals of the US Pro, French Pro, and Wimbledon. He eight of those finals.
Center court in Melbourne, a court that Djokovic has dominated over most of two decades, is named after Laver. So when Laver speaks about Djokovic, it is one champion discussing another.
Speaking with Tennis World recently, Laver said to press the brakes on anyone thinking Novak Djokovic is diminishing. Laver said, "Novak is an incredible champion. He constantly fuels his mental strength and motivation. Precisely for this reason and for all the successes he has achieved in his career, it is expected that he can always win every match."
To echo Laver, until Djokovic loses a bunch over a short amount of time, expect him to battle for the title of every tournament he enters. He is probably going to use his poor form in Australia as extra motivation. The chances of Djokovic holding the trophy at the end of Wimbledon or the US Open are just as real as they were before the Australian Open.