“He’s a Little Bit More Viable”: Legend Backs Novak Djokovic to Top Rafael Nadal in Grand Slam Race

Published 05/27/2021, 5:33 AM EDT
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 16, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal shakes hands with Serbia’s Novak Djokovic after winning the final REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane


Four-time Grand Slam champion Jim Courier has said that Novak Djokovic still has quite a few years left in tennis and would probably end up with the most Grand Slam titles.

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At 33, Djokovic has 18 career Grand Slam titles, just two shy of Big 3 peers Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who jointly top the men’s tally at 20 championship trophies apiece. However, while Federer, at 39, is on the last legs of his career, Nadal will turn 35 next month.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will take the Grand Slam race forward

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To a question on how he sees the Big 3 rivalry panning out in the next few years, Courier says he sees Djokovic and Nadal taking the race for titles forward in the next few years. He added that of the two, Djokovic is more viable to win across surfaces and if he can keep fitness and desire going till the age of 40, he should finish with the most Grand Slam titles.

2018 French Open Tennis Tournament – Rafael Nadal of Spain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia while playing a tie break doubles exhibition match against Simone Halep of Romania and Alexander Zverev of Germany on Court Philippe Chatrier during a packed Children’s Day at Roland Garros before the start of the 2018 French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros on May 26th 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

“I definitely think Novak will have more bites at the apple, assuming that both (Nadal and Djokovic) stay healthy. I think he’s a little bit more viable across the other surfaces. If you look at the balance of where their Majors have been won, I think that’s probably true given that three of the four are not on clay,” Courier said.

However, the former American champion added that he sees Nadal continuing his dominant run at Roland-Garros in the foreseeable future and picking up another 2-3 career Grand Slam titles before he calls time on his career.

Courier said that while that would leave the current World No. 1 with a lot of ground to cover, the task is not beyond Djokovic as he is likely to play on for longer.

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“It’s hard to see Rafa not winning at least 2-3 more based on how healthy he is right now and how much of a prohibitive favorite he is at Roland-Garros so if he punches out to 22-23, Novak has a lot of ground to make up but he seems to be likely to have a longer career,” Courier said.

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Djokovic will finish with most Slams if he plays until 40, says Courier

The former champion added if Djokovic can stay off injuries and keep his focus in the coming years, he will be in contention for more Major titles till he is 40.

“He’s a year younger (than Nadal) and tends to be in pretty good health and as long as he can stay away from the operating table and stay focused, I think he can be viable until he is 40 years old,” Courier said.

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While it’s unclear how long Nadal will be around, Djokovic, with his lean and mean frame and enviable off-court discipline, has a good chance to outlast the Spaniard on the circuit and possibly end up with more titles.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

995 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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