Former World No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov recently spoke about Novak Djokovic's campaign at the Australian Open so far, and claimed that the Serb's base level of play is good enough for him to beat a majority of his opponents.
Djokovic suffered a right oblique strain in his third-round encounter against Taylor Fritz, and his play against Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev in his subsequent matches was a little compromised. The Serb, however, revealed that he was in good shape after his semifinal win over Aslan Karatsev.
Speaking in that context with Tennis Majors, Yevgeny Kafelnikov opined that it was not necessary for Novak Djokovic to be 100% in every match in order to win the 2021 Australian Open.
"Look, there is a great quote from our good friend Stefan Edberg who said: 'You cannot expect to play seven ideal, wonderful matches to win a Grand Slam title'," Kafelnikov said. "You are going to play maybe one or two great matches in the tournament and the thing with Novak is that his average level of play is so high that it cannot drop below a certain point; that level is enough for him to beat most of his opponents and that makes him different compared to others."
"Novak Djokovic is a predator when he smells something big" - Yevgeny Kafelnikov
The Russian also believes that even if Novak Djokovic had not played at a great level in his early matches, he would have still been poised to lift the title this weekend. Kafelnikov equated Djokovic's big-match brilliance to that of a 'predator', claiming that the Serb plays better when the stakes are higher.
"He is a predator; when he smells something big, he wants to take it," Kafelnikov said. "He wants to be the one with most Grand Slam titles and the closer he gets to the title, the better he is going to play."
Kafelnikov then spoke about Novak Djokovic breaking Roger Federer's record tally of most weeks as World No. 1, which the ATP confirmed on Wednesday was guaranteed to happen. The two-time Slam champion believes that in addition to the No. 1 record, Djokovic is also the favorite to finish with the most Slam titles in history.
"Every athlete is driven by the idea of breaking records," Kafelnikov said. "When we start our careers, we dream about getting to the number one spot even for one week, never mind being there for 300+ weeks, so of course it is significant. In Novak Djokovic’s mind there were two great goals – historic No. 1 and most Grand Slam titles. I feel he may have the best chance of all the three guys to end up with more Slams. That is the legacy he wants to leave behind, those two achievements."