Djokovic could surpass Federer, says Woodbridge

Published by Matt Trollope

Novak Djokovic plays a backhand during his US Open final triumph over Juan Martin del Potro; Getty Images
After watching Novak Djokovic win back-to-back Grand Slam titles, Todd Woodbridge believes the Serb has rediscovered a level of form that could see him surpass Roger Federer’s men’s history-leading tally of 20.

Novak Djokovic’s back-to-back Grand Slam triumphs at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows have prompted Australian doubles legend Todd Woodbridge to declare that Djokovic could finish his career with more major singles titles than Roger Federer.

The Serb’s victory at the US Open was his 14th Grand Slam trophy, putting him six behind Federer’s tally of 20 – a record in the men’s game.

“He’s 31, so he’s got three, four more years, given what (Federer and Rafael Nadal) have been doing. There’s at least five slams in there for him,” Woodbridge told Tennismash.

“Now that’s a long way off, but that was the quality that I saw in his last couple of majors.

His ball-striking was mediocre (in Australia), but all of a sudden he’s finding the centre of the racquet. His serving has really improved; the big-point serving and consistency. There were a couple of points (in the US Open final) I saw him move forward and hit a couple of volleys and I thought, ‘oh that was a good volley, like a really good volley, under pressure.

“The sharpness of his all-round game has improved. A lot of it is mental. Mentally he’s switched himself back on.

“But all in all, I think it was an ability to go back to what he did well. (Coach) Marian Vajda came back and has said, let’s go do what we did when you were great. And he’s come back better from that.”

Djokovic now appears far removed from the shadow of the player who turned up to Melbourne Park in January and fell in the fourth round to Hyeon Chung. Or the player who returned, perhaps prematurely, after elbow surgery and suffered opening-round exits in both Indian Wells and Miami.

The Indian Wells loss came to 107th-ranked qualifier Taro Daniel, while as recently as late April he bombed in his first match in Barcelona to Martin Klizan, another qualifier whom Djokovic had previously owned 4-0 in their head-to-head.

“What I was watching at the Australian Open, it looked like he was done,” Woodbridge said.

“He looked like a guy who had achieved just about everything, had really fallen off and was playing some pretty ordinary tennis by everybody’s measure.

“To turn it back around and be playing almost as good as he ever has, I think he has a real opportunity to pass (Federer) and be the all-time leader in Grand Slams.”

FEATURE: Osaka’s masterful focus key to US Open triumph 

Having slipped as low as No.22 in mid June, Djokovic is back to world No.3, behind Nadal and Federer.

The Big Three are, once again, the top three.

Woodbridge said that Djokovic had required lots of matches in the past few months to find form, but now that he had re-established himself at the top of the game, he needed to maintain a sensible schedule given he is in his 30s.

He also noted that Federer, six years older at 37, would experience an increase in “off form” days at this stage of his career.

Despite these factors, Woodbridge still felt that Djokovic, Federer and Nadal would continue to set the standard in the men’s game for the next couple of years.

“When you look at the rest of the field, yes they can push (the Big Three) but can they go back-to-back against them to beat them?” he said.

“When you just watch the quality of Djokovic (at the US Open) and he’s at full-stretch with the backhand and getting the ball back in … I just don’t see that the younger guys have enough game at this point to be able to beat them week in, week out.

“These players are the best because they can bounce back physically, their ball striking is better, their concentration levels last longer. They have greater resilience.”

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