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"The guys that are coming from behind or that are surrounding Novak, they now have the confidence that they can beat Novak on any surface on any given day"- Mats Wilander 

Novak Djokovic (L) and Daniil Medvedev at the 2021 US Open
Novak Djokovic (L) and Daniil Medvedev at the 2021 US Open
Namit Kumar
ANALYST

Novak Djokovic's remarkable 2021 season was brought to a halt with a few losses on the big stage. The Serb lost to Alexander Zverev in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics and the ATP Finals and missed out on the Calendar Slam after losing to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open finals.

Former seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander has said that the younger generation of players are stepping up, and they are no longer intimidated by the Serb.

"I think the biggest difference is the guys that are coming from behind or that are surrounding Novak, they now have the confidence that they can beat Novak on any surface on any given day," Wilander told Eurosport. "I think they are not intimidated anymore unless you get to a fourth or fifth set of a Slam."
"But even then, I feel like they have seen Novak most probably have the best year on Tour ever in 2021. Still, at the end of it, he looked a little bit vulnerable at the US Open, at the ATP Finals, and maybe even in the Olympics," he added.

The Swede claimed that the Olympics may have been a bad idea for Djokovic, although the World No. 1 is still extremely fit and looks at least a decade younger than his 34 years.

"So maybe the Olympics was a bad idea for Novak. That is why it seemed like he lost a little bit of confidence, lost a little bit of drive. I mean, what an unbelievable year for Novak, and he does not look a day older than 24 years old, not 34," he said.

"He's thinking long-term": Wilander on Novak Djokovic's potential absence in Melbourne

Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Australian Open
Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic is yet to confirm his presence at the 2022 Australian Open. The nine-time champion of the event has expressed his reservations about the mandatory vaccination policy introduced by Australian authorities.

Wilander believes that it is a realistic possibility for the Serb to skip the Major in Melbourne this year. He said that even though the Australian Open has been his most successful Slam, Djokovic will be thinking about the future.

"I don't know what Novak Djokovic is going to do," Wilander said. "It is the Australian Open the most important tournament in his career? Well, it is the most successful Grand Slam for him. I'm not sure if it is more important than the French Open or Wimbledon or the US Open, but it is his most successful Slam."
"It would be the most natural place for him to break the tie of 20 Grand Slams with Roger and Rafa. But at the same time, Novak Djokovic, I think, is thinking about his own health," he added. "He's thinking about the future. He's thinking long-term, so I wouldn't be surprised at all if Novak doesn't go."

Edited by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
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