Novak Djokovic - Australian Open 2024

COMMENT: No one will be writing off Novak Djokovic – and rightly so

Novak Djokovic will go into clay season still awaiting his first title of the season, but it still feels like a matter of time before he is dominating again. 

Whilst tennis is often a beautiful sport in its complexity, there is an occasional simple truth to behold. One of them is this: If you are writing off Novak Djokovic, you haven’t been paying enough attention.

It is fair to say that 2024 has so far been notable for being the first year in an awful long time when the men’s game is being carried by elite players who do not belong to the big three. Some might say that is long overdue, but if greatness was easy then no one could ever achieve it.

What Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz are producing, not only when sharing a court but also generally, is genuinely remarkable. While their achievements are not yet worthy of a comparison to Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, their level of tennis they are producing certainly is.

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Sinner was immaculate in Australia, where he beat Djokovic en-route to winning a maiden major, and Alcaraz was exceptional at Indian Wells, where he beat the Italian to successfully defend his title. Both beat Daniil Medvedev in their respective finals, far from an easy feat in itself, and both have now beaten Djokovic in a Grand Slam final – which we know requires a veritably Herculean effort as a bare minimum. No one, then, can say they have not fully earned their places in the spotlight.

What of Djokovic, though?

Unusually, in fact almost unprecedentedly, Djokovic is heading into clay season still awaiting his first title of the year.

That, though, is the headline sensationalist way of describing it. The reality is that he has actually just gone two tournaments – the Australian Open and Indian Wells – without winning, and in one of those he still got to the semi-final. Nevertheless, it’s something he is aware of.

“No titles this year,” he said after his exit at Indian Wells. “That’s not something I’m used to.

“I was starting the season most of my career with a Grand Slam win or a Dubai win or any tournament.

“It is part of the sport. You just have to accept it. Some you win; some you lose. Hopefully, I’ll win some more and still keep going.

“I guess every trophy that eventually comes my way is going to be great. Obviously to break the negative cycle a little bit I’m having in the last three, four tournaments where I haven’t really been close to my best.”

Novak Djokovic - Australian Open 2024

Whilst him not winning Indian Wells won’t be a worry to anyone, the nature of his exit did raise eyebrows. He lost to lucky loser Luca Nardi, the world number 123, who became the lowest ranked player to ever beat the Serbian. Anyone who has watched Djokovic’s career knows that he simply does not lose to that kind of opposition, or at least he didn’t.

So does that mean we are finally seeing time and life in general catch up with Djokovic and impact his tennis? Possibly. It’s going to happen at some point, after all.

By his own admission he is now making a deliberate effort to balance his personal and professional lives a lot more, and who can possibly begrudge him that? He has a young family and nothing left to prove on a tennis court, after all.

His whole career has been a quest to show he is the best who ever played, and given his achievements few can deny he has now achieved exactly that. Certainly, those yet to be convinced likely never will be no matter what he does from here, so of course the motivation is going to drop a little.

Might he also be impacted by the emergence of Sinner and Alcaraz? Both have shown they can beat him with a level of consistency few others can and beat him on the biggest stage too. Having seen off Nadal and Federer, and Andy Murray for that matter, that’s unlikely to scare Djokovic, but is it a fight he can really be bothered with?

After all, it’s not a fight he can win. He can’t see them off, only compete with them and delay their dominance. That’s going to take a huge effort for little real benefit to his legacy.

Therefore, you could understand anyone who decides, subconsciously or consciously, that it’s just time to wind down.

We are not talking about just anyone, though. We are talking about Novak Djokovic; the most prolific Grand Slam winner the game has ever seen, the most persistent world number one the game has ever seen, the most technically and mentally perfect player the game has ever seen.

We are talking about a player who could stroll back onto a tennis court in Monte-Carlo and dominate all summer – and not one single person would be surprised if he did.

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.