ATP

Djokovic will be back stronger than ever in 2022, says Thiem

By Sports Desk September 13, 2021

Novak Djokovic was "playing for history" and suffered from nerves in his US Open final defeat to Daniil Medvedev, according to previous champion Dominic Thiem, who backed the 34-year-old to return "stronger than ever" in 2022.

Medvedev prevented Djokovic from becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four grand slams in a single year, beating him 6-4 6-4 6-4 in Sunday's thrilling showpiece.

Djokovic was seen in tears during the third set as his hopes of adding the US Open to his run of wins at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year slipped away.

But Thiem tipped Djokovic to bounce back from the disappointment of defeat and return in 2022 even stronger.

"One unbelievable goal slipped out of his hands yesterday," Thiem told Stats Perform.

 

"I expect him to be as strong as ever in 2022. I think after he won in Roland Garros, everybody was only talking about the calendar slam – first about the golden slam, and then about the calendar slam.

"He [Djokovic] was under pressure. Nobody can feel that or anything like that because of it being the calendar slam.

"I can feel it in a smaller way, probably from last year's final and from some other matches. And at some points it's just getting to you. And so, I really felt for him as well towards the end of the match.

"So, it can happen that it also makes him even stronger next year when all these talks and all this pressure is not that big anymore."

Thiem, who missed the tournament with a wrist injury that will rule him out until 2022, believes nerves were a factor in Djokovic's defeat but agreed with Medvedev's assessment of the Serbian as the greatest of all time – though he could not set him apart from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

"For me, there are three GOATs in the game, and each of them has achieved something very unique," Thiem said of the trio locked on 20 major titles each.

"So it's still the same for me as it was before. The three of them are the best in the history to me.

"And I'm only super happy to be in the same era with them and to be able to compete with them. Hopefully many more times next year again."

Related items

  • Wimbledon: 'Phew! I am lucky!' – Djokovic relieved to get job done just before curfew Wimbledon: 'Phew! I am lucky!' – Djokovic relieved to get job done just before curfew

    Novak Djokovic beat Tim van Rijthoven on Sunday to take his place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, and was very relieved to get the job done ahead of the 23:00BST curfew.

    World number one Djokovic saw off the Wimbledon debutant 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 on Centre Court to set up an intriguing last-eight clash with Jannik Sinner.

    The contest did not go all the defending champion's way, however, as Van Rijthoven's display in the second set suggested Djokovic would have to dig deep.

    But the Serb's response was emphatic as he went on drop just three games in the following two sets, blowing the 25-year-old Dutchman away impressively to reach a 13th Wimbledon quarter-final.

    It was also Djokovic's 25th successive win at Wimbledon, a sequence that has only ever been bettered three times in SW19.

    For a while there seemed to be a real threat of Van Rijthoven taking the match into a second day, with the curfew looming.

    Djokovic suggested he was not entirely aware of the deadline, and that only increased his relief after clinching victory with 22 minutes to spare.

    Speaking on court afterwards, Djokovic said: "I don't know if there was a curfew, 11pm? Is that still on? Okay, phew!

    "I am lucky, I am lucky. It's only 20 minutes, too, so I'm lucky. I have had some previous experience of playing a match over two days under the roof against [Rafael] Nadal some years ago, and it's never really pleasant if you can't finish the match the same day.

    "I am glad I did and now I am just looking forward to the next challenge."

    Specifically on Van Rijthoven, Djokovic added: "He was very tough, he's kind of a new face on the tour and actually won his first ATP match in the tournament he won a few weeks ago in his country, beating players in top five, top 10 in the world.

    "He was on a streak on this surface, so I knew it wasn't going to be easy with that serve and a lot of talent, great touch and a powerful forehand. He can do a lot of damage.

    "It took me a little bit of time to get used to his pace, and the conditions under the roof are a little bit different, a bit slippery, so it takes a bit of adjusting, but overall I closed out the match well."

  • Wimbledon: Djokovic survives 'very tough' battle with Van Rijthoven to set up Sinner showdown Wimbledon: Djokovic survives 'very tough' battle with Van Rijthoven to set up Sinner showdown

    Novak Djokovic stared danger in the face and scared it off in inimitable fashion as Wimbledon's defending champion scored a late-night win over Tim van Rijthoven.

    Chasing a fourth successive title at the All England Club, Djokovic shrugged off the jolt of dropping the second set to scorch through the next two and secure a 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory in the fourth-round contest.

    Having been part of an early-afternoon parade of champions, marking Centre Court's centenary, six-time Wimbledon king Djokovic returned to the arena and served a reminder of why he has become so difficult to beat. This was his 25th consecutive match win in the men's singles at Wimbledon, and only Bjorn Borg (41), Roger Federer (40) and Pete Sampras (31) have had more in a row.

    Van Rijthoven's fairy-tale rise to prominence during this grass-court season has included wins over world number one Daniil Medvedev and Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships. The victory over Medvedev came in the final, with Van Rijthoven's ranking jumping from 205th to 106th on the ATP list, Wimbledon swiftly proffering a wildcard.

    Seeds Reilly Opelka and Nikoloz Basilashvili both fell to Van Rijthoven in Wimbledon's early rounds, and when he sealed the second set against Djokovic with back-to-back aces, it fuelled the Dutchman's belief that he might add an even greater scalp.

    A dazzling backhand from Djokovic set up break point in game two of the third set, and with a curfew of 23:00BST, the Serbian knew he needed to hurry up. Van Rijthoven speared a forehand long and the break was established, at 21:43BST.

    Djokovic surged 5-0 ahead; and although Van Rijthoven spared himself a 'bagel', the damage had been done. Soon the top seed was a set away from the finish line, all across his opponent's game, and Van Rijthoven knew the jig was up. That finish line was crossed at 22:38BST. Djokovic said it had been a "very tough" battle, but he survives and faces Jannik Sinner next.

    Data slam: Poles apart, and eventually it showed

    Where Van Rijthoven has one ATP-level title, Djokovic has 87. The 35-year-old Serbian remains the firm favourite to be holding the trophy on Centre Court next Sunday, that second set notwithstanding. Djokovic's resilient effort against a man in form means there has still never been an incidence of the men's singles top seed losing to a wildcard at a grand slam in the Open Era (since 1968).

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Djokovic – 28/19
    Van Rijthoven – 41/53

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Djokovic – 7/2
    Van Rijthoven – 20/5

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Djokovic – 6/17
    Van Rijthoven – 1/4

  • Wimbledon: Jabeur's appeal to Africa as terrific Tunisian targets title Wimbledon: Jabeur's appeal to Africa as terrific Tunisian targets title

    Ons Jabeur urged the youth of Africa to believe they can make it all the way to Wimbledon as the Tunisian booked her place in the quarter-finals for a second successive year.

    The 27-year-old is the new title favourite, following Iga Swiatek's third-round exit, as she chases a maiden grand slam title.

    Jabeur was made to work hard for a 7-6 (11-9) 6-4 victory over Belgian Elise Mertens on Sunday, but she has still yet to drop a set.

    Next for Jabeur is Czech player Marie Bouzkova, the world number 66, and she is relishing her role as a trailblazer for African and Arab women.

    "I enjoy sometimes failing and succeeding after. It's amazing," Jabeur said. "I wish I could really give the message to the young generation, not just from my country but from the African continent.

    "I want to see more players here, I want them to believe more in themselves and believe that they can be here. I don't come from a rich family, so you have to really stop finding excuses and go for it, just be yourself and enjoy playing tennis."

    World number two Jabeur is the only Tunisian ranked inside the WTA top 700. This is her fifth Wimbledon, and last year's run to the last eight was her best performance at that point, with Aryna Sabalenka preventing her going any further.

    Now she has the title in her sights.

    "It's amazing to be here and hopefully I can continue," she said in an on-court interview. "I love playing on grass. I love the connection between nature and me, so hopefully it will continue this way for me and maybe through to the finals."

    Mertens beat former champion Angelique Kerber in round three, and against Jabeur on Court One she battled from an early 3-1 deficit to force the opening-set tie-break.

    It was exhilarating at that point, and Jabeur was relieved to win the breaker, fearing she might not have the wherewithal to come back from dropping the set.

    Mertens beat Jabeur in round three at the US Open last year, so the threat she posed was clear.

    "She's a great opponent really. It's never easy to play her, and I had to dig deep, very deep, in the tie-break," Jabeur said. "I couldn't imagine myself playing three sets against her."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.