John McEnroe recently weighed in on Novak Djokovic's prospects at the US Open. McEnroe reckons Djokovic is the man to beat at Flushing Meadows but feels the Serb could be affected by the sweltering conditions in New York.
Djokovic is aiming to become the first man to complete the Calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969. The Serb failed in his quest for the Golden Slam after losing back-to-back matches to Alexander Zverev and Pablo Carreno Busta at the Olympics.
As such, many believe Djokovic will be even more motivated to achieve the Calendar Slam to make up for his disappointment in Japan. A fourth US Open title will also see the Serb leapfrog rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam race with 21 Majors.
McEnroe, for his part, reckons Djokovic will come away with the US Open title. The American pointed out that he had correctly predicted the Serb would win Wimbledon and then miss out on the Olympic gold.
"I anticipate that he’s (Novak Djokovic) going to win the tournament, that’s what I anticipate," McEnroe said on ESPN. "I felt before Wimbledon started that he was going to win the Grand Slam. I felt like he was going to lose at the Olympics. The two-out-of-three format, just excessive travel, no fans, et cetera, I think contributed."
When asked to highlight Djokovic's biggest threats at the US Open, McEnroe was quick to point out that the Serb might struggle with the conditions. Temperatures in New York are currently peaking at over 30 degrees Celsius, with humidity often crossing the 80% mark.
"I would say the biggest threat, first of all, the biggest threat to Djokovic in my book is the conditions, like the heat," McEnroe said. "He’s a human being. I think that could affect him more than his opponent."
McEnroe believes the Next Gen can never be counted out, but highlighted the fact that the younger players have always struggled against Djokovic in the best-of-five format.
"Other than that, I mean, you’re looking at the new wave coming in," McEnroe went on. "We thought maybe Medvedev was going to be able to do a number finally at Australia, where Novak pretty much gave him a lesson there."
"Shapovalov was playing great in the semis of Wimbledon, but at the big moments couldn’t cash in," he added. "That seems to be the trend. Thiem almost got him at Australia last year. Couldn’t do it. Now he’s not even playing. It takes a huge, huge effort to do that."
The seven-time Major champion feels Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas are the most likely candidates to upset Djokovic at the US Open.
"It’s difficult to say who of those guys, whether it’s Zverev, Tsitsipas, Medvedev, those are the obvious ones that come to mind for me, who would be in best position to do that," the American added. "I couldn’t predict. I would say it would be one of those three players, if it was."
"Novak Djokovic didn’t win a medal at the Olympics, will that matter? I think it will" - John McEnroe
Novak Djokovic will be under immense pressure at the US Open as he chases a record-breaking 21st Major, which would also help him complete the Calendar Slam.
At the same time, Djokovic will be keen to exorcize the demons from his 2020 US Open campaign, where he was defaulted for inadvertently hitting a lineswoman with a ball.
McEnroe reckons the incident could play on Djokovic's mind. He also feels the World No. 1 could be bogged down by the fact that he failed to win a medal at the Olympics.
"The other part is just the pressure, if that gets to him," McEnroe said. "Lord knows what everyone has been going through the past year and a half, all this talk about mental health.
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"What happened last year at the Open for him when he was defaulted, all that is going to play somewhat of a factor. The fact he didn’t win a medal at the Olympics, will that matter? I think it will, but we just don’t know the answer to that."