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 tracked most of tennis’ other major milestones.
Novak Djokovic has equaled rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in 20 Grand Slam tournaments by winning Wimbledon this year. The Serbian also won the Australian Open and the French Open and came close to completing the Calendar Slam at the US Open.
Djokovic also claimed the record for most weeks as a world No.1, topping Federer’s tally of 310 weeks. The Serbian also clinched the No.1 title at the end of the year for the seventh time, passing Sampras’ six.
Considering those records and Djokovic’s top record against Federer and Nadal, many already consider him the GOAT. However, given that the three are still tied across 20 Majors, there is an argument to be made that Djokovic still hasn’t really outperformed his rivals.
But Radek Stepanek, who once coached the world No.1 alongside Andre Agassi, believes Djokovic will end any doubts about his GOAT credentials in 2022.
“It’s amazing and what he (Novak Djokovic) wants to accomplish to be the best of all time, I think it will happen next year,” Stepanek said.
Stepanek believes Djokovic will spare no effort to take the lead in the Grand Slam race and then maintain his position at the top.
“He changes the history books in virtually every Slam, so I think the Grand Slam statistic that he would like to be alone up there,” added Stepanek.
“I am very happy to see him overcome this period” – Radek Stepanek on the 2017 season marked by the injuries of Novak Djokovic
During the interview, Radek Stepanek shed light on Novak Djokovic’s injury issues in 2017-18, when he was part of the Serbian coaching staff.
Djokovic suffered from elbow pain for much of the 2017 season in which he failed to win a slam. The 34-year-old ended his season after retiring halfway through his Wimbledon quarter-final clash with Tomas Berdych.
When Djokovic returned the following year, his elbow continued to bother him and he suffered a relatively early exit to the Australian Open. The Serb opted for surgery after the Slam, and after struggling first, won Wimbledon and the US Open that year.
Stepanek pointed out that his former ward had gone through a difficult time in 2017 (until July) due to his injury.
“It has been a very interesting seven month period because he was in a difficult time in his career and in his life because he injured his elbow,” said Stepanek.
The Czech revealed that Djokovic constantly played with the pain during this time and added that the Serbian made his comeback a bit too soon after his surgery.
“During that time he didn’t play a single tournament where he was healthy so we always had to compromise and all of a sudden he ended up having his elbow surgery and he started playing very. early, ”added Stepanek. “He didn’t finish rehab and he rushed a lot and it took seven months.”
However, the 43-year-old is now happy that Djokovic saw the flip side of those troubling times and won the Slam again.
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“I am very happy to see that he got over this period and is playing painlessly and accumulating the Slams,” said Stepanek.