Annabel Croft believes Novak Djokovic is in pole position to become the dominant player in tennis once again in 2019, as he prepares to start his bid for a 15th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
Djokovic won the last two major titles of 2018 and finished the year as the world No 1 after a sensational return to form in the second half of the season, and Croft has told Tennis365 that the Serb will be the favourite for all four Grand Slam titles this year.
“Tennis can be unpredictable at times, but Djokovic appears to be ready to dominate once again,” former British No 1 Croft said.
“It was only two years ago that I felt Andy Murray had finally broken the stranglehold of these amazing champions who have dominated the game in Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, when he became No 1 and ended that season on such a high.
“He looked like he was taking the game to another level, yet injury meant Murray has not been able to kick on from that fantastic achievement of rising to the top of the rankings and instead, we have seen the Big Three storming back and winning most of the big tournaments since then.
“As we go into 2019, it looks like Djokovic has separated himself from the pack a little once again, with his form at the back end of last year suggesting he will be the man to beat at the Australian Open and all the events he plays in this year.
“Yet the reason why we all love watching tennis is the unknown, the factor that has seen Murray fail to build on his rise to No 1 and the reason why Rafael Nadal has not been able to sustain his place at the top of the rankings despite appearing to move ahead of the chasing pack at times in his career.
“Novak looked unbeatable at times in the second half of last season, as he shook off his elbow problem and appeared to get back to playing his best tennis. Even his coach Marian Vajda has said he is playing better than he was when he was so dominant in 2015, so he is really laying down the marker for the rest.”
Croft went on to suggest this could be the year that sees the new breed of tennis superstars emerge, with Alexander Zverev the leader of a new generation of stars eager to make their mark in the game.
“I feel there is an incredible crop of new potential stars waiting to break through,” she added. “We have waited for them to turn potential into something more for some time now, but more and more of them are coming through and eventually one or two will push through.
“We saw Zverev producing some wonderful performances at the ATP Finals in London in November and that was a sign that the top players are being caught by these new stars. It will be great for the game if 2019 is the year that sees Zverev, Denis Shapovalov or maybe Karen Khachanov make a big breakthrough in the Grand Slam events.”
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