Monday 22 January 2018

Djokovic insists lesser lights can land Grand Slam titles

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic opens his 2013 Grand Slam campaign today – and the world No 1 accepts he needs to be at his best from the outset.

Djokovic is attempting to make history as the first man in the Open era to win three successive Australian Open titles, but he was handed a tricky first hurdle to negotiate in the form of experienced Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu (31), who has twice reached the fourth round in Melbourne.

Djokovic said: "Maybe Mathieu is ranked lower at the moment (at 60 in the world) but he was a top-20 player. There is no underestimating him, that's for sure."

Djokovic is the favourite to claim the trophy once again and, with Rafael Nadal absent as he continues to battle back from a knee injury, his only realistic challengers appear to be Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

But the 25-year-old insists that there are several other players capable of vying for the major prizes.

"I wouldn't underestimate (Juan Martin) Del Potro, (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga, (David) Ferrer, (Tomas) Berdych or anyone who is in the top 10. And there are young players coming up like (Bernard) Tomic, (Grigor) Dimitrov and (Milos) Raonic," he said.

"I don't think it's nice for me to predict that us three will be champions of all the Grand Slams this year."

Federer appears to have the toughest draw – after what looks a straightforward opening assignment against Frenchman Benoit Paire – with young Australian hope Tomic, who won his first title in Sydney on Saturday, a possible opponent in round three.

Australian Open,

Live, Eurosport, 6.00am

Irish Independent

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