Novak Djokovic is in pole position to win the so-called GOAT race for a record number of Grand Slam men’s singles titles in the Open Era, according to Barbara Schett, as the Serbian looks well placed to outlast Rafael Nadal physically.
The record is currently held by Nadal, who has claimed 22 major victories during his 17-year career.
Djokovic has won 21 Grand Slam titles, but he looks unlikely to get the chance to equal the record at the US Open later this month.
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Djokovic is on the entry list for Flushing Meadows, which takes place from August 29 to September 11, but is set to be refused entry into the United States due to his Covid-19 vaccination status.
Despite the setback, former world No. 7 and US Open quarter-finalist Schett believes that the 35-year-old will bounce back and make history.
“I think now he practices just like if he was going to the US Open. If there's a last-minute change, he's going to be there, and if not, his life will continue,” said the Eurosport expert.
“I think Novak will still play for many more years; it looks like that. His body is fine, he doesn't suffer too many injuries, and I think he will give absolutely everything to go down in the history books by winning the most Grand Slam titles.
“Clearly he's not far away. He's only got one more to go, and then he equals Rafa Nadal. If you look at Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic now, I would say Novak can still play for another two, three years, or maybe even longer. And Rafa Nadal, I think the clock is definitely ticking there.”
Doubts around Djokovic’s involvement at the US Open are down to travel restrictions.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed some social distancing and quarantine rules last week, but is yet to update travel advice, which currently says that non-US citizens must be fully vaccinated to enter the country.
It would be the second Grand Slam Djokovic misses this year, after skipping the Australian Open, also because he’s unvaccinated.
“It's a rough year for Djokovic,” Schetts said.
“You could see it in this way, and you can see it in the other way as a tennis player. It's horrible because I still think if he would go to the US Open, would be able to play now, he is the favourite for me to win the title.
“I have absolutely no doubt about that because to me, he's the best tennis player, the most consistent tennis player out there. But then on the other side, he chose not to be vaccinated, and that's fine, but then he has to live with the consequences as well, that he can't enter certain countries.”
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