Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic has been named the outright favorite to win the Australian Open in Melbourne next month.
The world number one has the opportunity to become the most decorated men’s player of all time if he lifts the trophy.
He is currently level with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal on 20 Grand Slams apiece, and he could move out in front with victory Down Under. Can he pull it off?
Will Djokovic Play in the Australian Open?
Djokovic will only have a chance of winning the year’s first Grand Slam if he shows up, which is by no means guaranteed. He is the most successful male player in Australian Open history, having won it nine times, and he would never normally miss it, but his participation has been cast into doubt this time around.
The organizers require every player competing at the tournament to be vaccinated against Covid-19, and the Serb has not confirmed his vaccination status. He calls it a private matter, which sparked speculation that he has not had the jab and he will miss out, Kyrie Irving-style.
Yet Djokovic’s name appeared on the entry list, and fellow pro Andy Murray believes he will be there. “I don’t know what the situation is with Novak,” said Murray. “The latest I saw was that he was on the entry list, and I assume he’s playing and has been vaccinated. We were told they were the rules – if you want to play, you have to be vaccinated – so I’m assuming that’s what’s happened.”
The Clear Favorite
If we assume Djokovic will make an appearance, it will be hard for any of his rivals to stop him from seizing the trophy. He is the clear favorite, priced at +150 with BetMGM.
Daniil Medvedev is second in the betting at +250. Djokovic beat Medvedev 7–5, 6–2, 6–2 in the last Australian Open final. He then went on to win the French Open – beating clay court king Nadal en route – and Wimbledon, taking his tally to 20 Grand Slams.
Djokovic had the opportunity to win a record 21st Grand Slam at the US Open in September, but he suffered a shock straight-sets defeat to Medvedev in the final. It was Medvedev’s first Grand Slam.
Alexander Zverev, who is still on the hunt for a Grand Slam title, is next in the betting at +450, followed by Nadal, who is +800 with BetMGM, but +1200 with FanDuel Sportsbook. The likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem are regarded as long-shots.
Can Medvedev Thwart Djokovic Again?
Medvedev and Zverev are the main men standing in Djokovic’s way. The Russian is up to second in the world rankings after winning the US Open, while Zverev is third. The German beat Djokovic in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals last month, and then he got the better of Medvedev in the final.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin believes that dynamic duo will knock Djokovic off his perch in 2022. “Medvedev is taking off,” she said. “Zverev – it will be the year for him. Medvedev and Zverev have established themselves as the most dangerous rivals. There will be the return of Nadal. Obviously, Dominic Thiem will be back.
“And Novak Djokovic? What about his desire? We always have the feeling that Novak Djokovic’s appetite keeps growing. Will it continue like this? It is very difficult to say. He will still want to win. He certainly needs to recharge his batteries now.”
Yet it is dangerous to write Djokovic off. If he has recharged his batteries, he will be a force to be reckoned with in Melbourne. His record at the tournament is magnificent, he has the experience and the mentality to get the job done, and odds of +150 with the sportsbooks on the most dominant player of the past few years adding to his trophy cabinet look very appealing.