Novak Djokovic French Open 2021

Novak Djokovic has ‘fire in his belly’ after prolonged absence, doubles legend claims

Pam Shriver thinks Novak Djokovic has a “fire in his belly” as he looks to equal Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam tally “sooner rather than later.”

20-time Grand Slam legend Djokovic has only played one event so far this year after he was denied entry from a number of tournaments as a result of his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

After a near fortnight-long saga, Djokovic was deported just from Australia just one day before the Australian Open over fears he may spark anti-vaccine sentiment should he be allowed to compete unvaccinated.

Whilst Djokovic was then allowed to feature at the Dubai Tennis Championships, he suffered a shock defeat to Czechian qualifier and eventual finalist Jiri Vesely. In doing so, Djokovic lost his World number one title to Daniil Medvedev.

Most recently, Djokovic was refused entry into America in order to compete in the ‘Sunshine Double’ of the Indian Wells Masters and the Miami Open.

Speaking on Tennis Channel’s Inside-In podcast, 21-time doubles Slam winner Shriver said “I’m certainly excited that he’s able to play and that it looks like the worst of the [Covid-19] pandemic as far as it hurts unvaccinated people looks like for him [that] it’s going to be easier the rest of the year and that’s a good thing.

“We don’t want tennis history changed because of this philosophy about vaccines or this particular vaccine.

“I expect him to be anywhere from really rusty, and if he has the wrong draw, lose early, to win the tournament. So, in other words, I don’t quite know what to expect,” she joked.

“There’s nobody that I know, I guess Ash Barty would be the closest one, Serena in her prime, Roger occasionally and I guess Novak can fit that profile, right? Players who can take such a long period of time off and then get right back at it and win.

“So, it’s possible, it might take him a couple of tournaments, but I think he’s going to have some fire in his belly and he’s gonna try and match Nadal at 21 [Grand Slams] sooner rather than later.”

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.