In an exclusive interview with Express Sport, Radek Stepanek said he expects Novak Djokovic to firmly cement his status as the greatest tennis player of all time in 2022.
Stepanek also believes Djokovic will be eager to claim the Grand Slam record for himself, given how he has hunted down most other major tennis milestones.
Novak Djokovic tied arch-rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slams by winning Wimbledon this year. The Serb also won the Australian Open and French Open and came close to completing the Calendar Slam at the US Open.
Djokovic also claimed the record for most weeks as World No. 1, surpassing Federer's tally of 310 weeks. The Serb also clinched the year-end No. 1 title for the seventh time, moving past Sampras' six.
Considering these records and Djokovic's superior head-to-head record over Federer and Nadal, many already view him as the GOAT. However, given that the three are still tied on 20 Majors, there is an argument to be made that Djokovic has still not truly surpassed his rivals.
But Radek Stepanek, who once coached the World No. 1 alongside Andre Agassi, believes Djokovic will put to bed all doubts regarding his GOAT credentials in 2022.
"It's incredible and what he (Novak Djokovic) wants to achieve in becoming the best of all time, I believe it's going to be happening next year," Stepanek said.
Stepanek believes Djokovic will leave no stone unturned in his attempts to take the lead in the Grand Slam race and then maintain his position at the top.
"He's changing the history books in basically every Slam so I think the Grand Slam stat he would like to be up there alone," Stepanek added.
"I'm very happy to see he overcome that period" - Radek Stepanek on Novak Djokovic's injury-ridden 2017 season
During the interview, Radek Stepanek shed some light on Novak Djokovic's injury problems in 2017-18, when he was part of the Serb's coaching team.
Djokovic suffered elbow pain for large parts of the 2017 season in which he failed to win a Slam. The 34-year-old brought an end to his season after retiring midway through his Wimbledon quarterfinal clash against Tomas Berdych.
When Djokovic returned the following year, his elbow continued to bother him and he suffered a relatively early exit at the Australian Open. The Serb opted for surgery after the Slam, and after initially struggling, went on to win Wimbledon and the US Open that year.
Stepanek pointed out that his former ward endured a difficult time in 2017 (up to July) due to his injury.
"It was a very interesting seven months because he was in a tough period of his career and life because he was injured with his elbow," Stepanek said.
The Czech revealed that Djokovic constantly played with pain during that period and added that the Serb made his comeback a tad too quickly following his surgery.
"During that period, he didn't play one tournament where he was healthy so we always had to compromise and suddenly he ended up having surgery on his elbow and he started to play very early," added Stepanek. "He didn't finish the rehab and he rushed it a lot and it took seven months."
However, the 43-year-old is now happy that Djokovic has seen the back of those troubling times and is winning Slams again.
"I'm very happy to see he overcame that period and he plays pain free and he's racking up the Slams," Stepanek said.
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