Novak Djokovic goes in the Australian Open final a hot favourite.
Novak Djokovic goes in the Australian Open final a hot favourite.

Aussie icon Rod Laver backs Djoker to join rarest of clubs

POISED to become only the third man to win eight titles at the same major, Novak Djokovic has been anointed by Rod Laver as the perfect hardcourt exponent ahead of the Australian Open final.

Bidding to join Rafael Nadal (12 French Open titles) and Roger Federer (eight Wimbledon crowns) in the sport's most elite group, Djokovic is aiming to add to wins in 2008, 2011-13, 2015-19 and '19.

Laver, the only player in history to twice win all four grand slam titles in the same season, predicts Thiem will test Djokovic but says the Serb is the complete player.

:He certainly deserves favouritism because of his consistency," Laver said.

"He rarely makes a mistake, his serve has improved, he covers the court well and he's prepared to stay out there and be patience.

"His record shows how well he plays here and while I think Dominic is will be hard to beat, Djokovic is an incredible player. He has a perfect game for hardcourts."

Rod Laver is an unabashed fan of Djokovic’s play. Picture: AAP
Rod Laver is an unabashed fan of Djokovic’s play. Picture: AAP

Djokovic holds key edges over Thiem in almost every aspect heading to his 26th major final.

Chasing a 17th major, the Serb has conceded only one set in six matches, taking 12 hours, 29 minutes to reach the final.

Contesting his third grand slam decider, Thiem has dropped five sets and taken 18 hours, 24 minutes to survive.

Djokovic would become only the second man to win majors in three different decades after Ken Rosewall ('50s, '60s, '70s) if successful but he has immense respect for Thiem.

"Definitely one of the best players in the world. Deserves to be where he is," Djokovic said of the Austrian.

"It seems like he's improved his game a lot on hard courts, because his game is more suitable to the slower surfaces. The clay of course being his favourite surface.

"But winning Indian Wells I think last year, beating Roger in the finals, that probably gave him a lot of confidence that he can win big tournaments on other surfaces, as well.

"I don't think he's really anymore next generation. He's been around for many years. Now already he's an established top-5, top-10 player. He's already there.

"It's just a matter of one match here and there that can potentially give him a grand slam title, that he can actually get in the mix of top three in the world.

"He definitely has the game. He has the experience now. He has the strength. He has all the means to really be there."

Djokovic is at the peak of his powers – and primed for a stunning eighth Australian Open title. Picture: AP
Djokovic is at the peak of his powers – and primed for a stunning eighth Australian Open title. Picture: AP

At the peak of his powers, Djokovic is resigned to eventual change.

"The younger players now coming up and challenging us oldies," he said.

"It's inevitable it's going to happen more frequently in the future.

"I think it's good for sport. I'm going to try my best to prolong their domination in the grand slam as much as possible. I'm sure Roger and Rafa would agree.

"But it's going to happen. Whether it's this year we're going to have a new grand slam champion or next year, but it's very soon."



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