John McEnroe has insisted Novak Djokovic is the world’s No. 1 tennis player, even if he is dislodged by Daniil Medvedev.
With Djokovic absent from the Australian Open, he will lose all the points he gained when he won the final 12 months ago.
If Medvedev wins two more matches in Melbourne, he will ascend to the top of the men’s tree next month.
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He made his Grand Slam breakthrough when winning the US Open final last year, but McEnroe says the only time the rankings matter is at the end of the year - and that Djokovic is clearly the best player in the game.
"Let me put it a little perspective, it's a long year,” McEnroe said. “I think what really matters when you become No. 1 and it's still a great honour whenever it happens, it's who's No. 1 at the end of the year.
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"The final rankings before, when all four majors are played, when all the tournaments have been played, this is the very beginning of the year and it's still an amazing accomplishment, but you're not going to sit there and tell me that Djokovic who was No. 1, had three of the last four majors and was in the final of the US Open, isn't the No. 1 player in the world - that's ludicrous.
“And because of the unfortunate fact that he didn't play here, he's losing all the points he got that he won from the Australian Open. So that's just why that happens.”
While McEnroe feels Djokovic is the top player at present, he is impressed with how Medvedev has improved his game.
“You gotta love the way he plays because it's sort of, to me, the way you try to teach kids who are learning to play the sport, get a foundation, make sure you don't beat yourself,” McEnroe said. “Then eventually you start adding to your game and that's what he's done.
“I mean, I remember, I think it was four years ago, he played Djokovic and he was playing this style. I'm like, what the hell is he doing? I mean he's pushing, he's gonna get destroyed, but he got in Djokovic's head and he got a lot of respect in the locker room for that style that he was willing to go to that point of total exhaustion and both guys were looking exhausted.
“So this is why mentally he's so tough and so he's become an absolutely tremendous player. I'd argue the best hardcore player in the world right now.”
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