When Novak Djokovic won his first ever Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2008 by defeating France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets, no-one could’ve predicted that the man affectionately known as ‘Nole’ would win a further 20 titles over the course of the next 14 years. While his talent was undeniable from the outset, he had garnered a reputation early in his career as someone who had stamina issues and struggled under pressure late in matches.
Those criticisms appeared to ring true after his triumph at Melbourne Park in ‘08, with the Serbian failing to win another major for a further three years. That prompted fans and pundits to question whether Djokovic’s maiden Grand Slam win was merely a one-off. That was until he reigned supreme in his second major in 2011 – which also came at the Australian Open.
The third seed dominated Britain’s Andy Murray in straight sets in the final (6-4, 6-2, 6-3) – and in doing so – put himself back on the tennis map as a true Grand Slam contender. He continued that rich vein of form in 2011 and won Wimbledon and US Open titles – ensuring that almost overnight – the big two of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had now become the big three.
It was like Djokovic had flicked a switch, flipping the narrative from someone who cracks under pressure down the stretch, to a player whose steely nerves late in matches made him unflappable. What has transpired over the past 12 years since his breakout year in 2011 has been a sight to behold, with Djokovic establishing himself as one of, if not the greatest player to ever grace a tennis court.
With 21 Grand Slam victories to his name, which is just one shy of generational rival Nadal for the most in history – the 35-year-old has the chance to tie the Spaniard with 22 at the upcoming Australian Open. He is tipped to do so, as he enters the tournament’s 111th instalment as the 6/5 favourite in the Australian Open odds.
Not only will another Grand Slam this month bolster his G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) case – it will also mark a staggering 10th Aussie Open title – five more than retired Australian player Roy Emerson who has the second most with five.
Djokovic will be particularly motivated to win it this year given the controversy that surrounded him at the Australian Open in 2022. After choosing to forgo the COVID-19 vaccine, Nole was forbidden to play at last year’s tournament after being deemed a potential health risk – despite initially being allowed into the country and cleared to play.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with his stance, there’s no doubting that Djokovic will be out for redemption in 2023. That’s easier said than done however, with the sport currently boasting an abundance of supremely talented up-and-coming players on the tour who will be live threats, with the likes of Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, world number three Casper Ruud and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev all capable of lifting the esteemed trophy.
You also can’t count out defending champion Nadal, who in spite of entering this year’s tournament under an injury cloud, always remains an ever-present danger.For those after Australian Open betting tips, Medvedev is the second favourite to win his second Grand Slam at 6/1, while Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas are the second and third favourites at 9/1 and 12/1 respectively.