Novak Djokovic - Australian Open 2023

Novak Djokovic’s Indian Wells withdrawal gives him ‘last chance’ at rare feat claims former No.1

Novak Djokovic has not had the best week, having to withdraw from Indian Wells, but seven-time major champion Mats Wilander believes it could be a blessing in disguise.

Djokovic is unable to play the first ATP Masters 1000 of the season, for the second consecutive year due to his vaccination status, with the US not allowing unvaccinated people to enter the country until the 11th May.

However, Wilander believes this news could benefit the 35-year-old’s hopes for the rest of the season, “He can be fresh for the clay-court season, he can be more fresh for the French Open.”

Wilander continued, “He’s already No. 1 in the world. He’s already broken all the records when it comes to No. 1. So what difference does it make if he wins another Indian Wells or Miami?”

“He doesn’t have to deal with the problem of confidence. Most players do. Novak Djokovic seems to not need a lot of confidence to just walk back into the circle of champions and start winning again.”

Djokovic will now turn his attention to the clay, with the Miami Open looking increasingly unlikely, and Wilander believes it could be the Serb’s last chance at completing an incredibly rare achievment.

“So I think that on clay it’d be great for him. He’s going to have a better preparation season. He needs to win the French Open for sure because I think this might be his last chance at the Calendar Grand Slam,” said Wilander.

Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) are the only men to win all four major titles in one year, but Djokovic has come close to replicating them before.

Djokovic came closest to joining the elite club in 2021, when he won the first three Grand Slams before losing in the US Open final to Daniil Medvedev.

A bragging right he does have over Budge and Laver is that he is the only player to win three Grand Slams in one year across three different surfaces.

“I really feel like that’s in his wheelhouse. I was surprised that he didn’t do it a couple of years ago and I’ll be surprised again because watching him play at Australian Open, there is no backing off,” said Wilander.

“He’s not getting worse, he’s not getting older. In fact, he’s just getting better. So to me, the less tennis he plays, the better it is for him to win majors.”

Djokovic had just returned to the court for the first time since his Australian Open triumph, in Dubai, but Wilander believes the unwanted interruptions allow the 22-time major champion to enjoy life on and off the court.

“I think for someone that has children and a family, and that is a family man, I think that the stop and go is the absolute perfect situation.”

“You get a chance to train at home, you train as much as you want. You get a chance to go, to come home and have dinner with your family, put your kids to bed, spend time with the people that mean the most to you that you love.

Wilander added, “I can pretty much promise that these players, they don’t really want to be out there and play 22-25 tournaments a year because some of them don’t mean that much to them.”

It appears that Djokovic missing the sunshine double could be the last interruption he will face due to his vaccination status with the US, who are the last country on the ATP tour with restrictions, opening their borders to unvaccinated people in two months time.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.