"If the Australian Open started next week, to me Djokovic is the solid favorite" - Patrick McEnroe believes Holger Rune and Next Gen are not ready to beat Novak Djokovic at Grand Slams yet

Novak Djokovic and Holger Rune at the 2022 Paris Masters; Patrick McEnroe (inset).
Novak Djokovic and Holger Rune at the 2022 Paris Masters; Patrick McEnroe (inset).

After Holger Rune stunned Novak Djokovic in the Paris Masters final after a 2.5-hour-long battle last week, Patrick McEnroe was quick to opine that the 19-year-old Dane would not have been able to beat the Serb if the final had been a best-of-five match. McEnroe has now reiterated the same, further explaining why he feels that Rune and his fellow Next Gen players are not yet ready to beat Djokovic at the Grand Slams.

According to the former American player, the Serb is an overwhelming favorite to win the Australian Open in the current scheme of things, with the best-of-five-sets format giving him a clear advantage. For the record, the 21-time Grand Slam champion has won seven matches in five sets after losing the first two sets and has a 37-10 win/loss record in five-setters overall, winning his last eight.

Speaking during a recent episode of the Holding Court with Patrick McEnroe podcast, the host himself expressed his views on the same. While he believes Rune has the skills to be able to beat the Serb at the Grand Slams, he still has work to do to get there, in terms of stamina and physicality.

"This guy (Holger Rune) is a phenomenal athlete, amazing legs, incredible shot selection, just overall an electric player to watch," McEnroe said. "But I don't see him beating Djokovic in best-of-5 in Australia. Of course, he can do some work in the next few months, which I expect he'll do. But the point is, if the Australian Open started next week, to me Djokovic is the solid favorite," he stated.

McEnroe further expressed that both Djokovic and Rafael Nadal continue to be the 'men to beat' at the Grand Slam level. While he feels that many young players are well equipped to beat them in three-set matches, as evidenced by results in the last few seasons, beating the legendary duo at the Majors is a different ball game altogether.

"It's been proven over the last few years, especially that it's a lot harder to beat Rafa and Novak in best-of-5 if they're healthy and ready to go. We've seen them get picked off in these events and more so in the last 3-5 years, by Tsitsipas' and Zverevs. But to do it in best-of-5? That's why for Rune, he's going to have to put in a little bit more work physically," suggested McEnroe.

"Late in the match, Rune was running on fumes" - Patrick McEnroe on the Paris Masters final between Novak Djokovic and Holger Rune

Rolex Paris Masters - Day Seven
Rolex Paris Masters - Day Seven

Patrick McEnroe reflected on last week's Paris Masters final some more, stressing that Holger Rune needed a monumental effort to beat Djokovic at the deep end of the deciding set as he looked more tired of the two players. Rune held on to his nerve to save six break points in the final game before closing out the match 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

"Particularly late in the match, it was clear to me that Rune was running on fumes. It was amazing that he was able to get over the finish line, particularly in that last game at 6-5 in the third," McEnroe said.

Joining McEnroe on his podcast episode was leading tennis writer Pete Bodo, who believes Rune is highly capable and will develop in terms of physicality as well, to be ready one day to win Grand Slams. However, he feels Rune and the Next Gen will need to elevate themselves to match Djokovic in the biggest tournaments.

"Rune has got youth on his side. He'll continue to grow into that body and develop strength. He's finding out where his baselines are and where his boundaries are in terms of physical and he'll adjust to that. There's no reason to assume he won't be able to develop that stamina," Bodo said.
"These guys are all going to have to elevate their games if they are to take on Djokovic," he further stated.

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Edited by Shyam Kamal
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