EXCLUSIVE: Annabel Croft tips Novak Djokovic to dominate tennis in 2019
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.”
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
More from Tennis365:
Andy Murray: Emma Raducanu win provides ‘huge opportunity’ for British tennis
Kent teenager Raducanu took New York by storm, not dropping a set en route to victory.
Novak Djokovic’s classy message to new champions after his US Open heartache
Djokovic has taken to Instagram to congratulate both his rival Medvedev and US Open women’s champions Emma Raducanu.
Andy Murray gets back to winning ways with convincing win in Rennes
Andy Murray recorded a comfortable first-round victory over Germany’s Yannick Maden at the Rennes Open Challenger.
‘Savvy’ US Open champion Emma Raducanu can ‘pretty much take her pick’ of brands – sponsorship lawyer
The 18-year-old’s earning power has been boosted by her incredible US Open win.
Emma Raducanu on message from the Queen: ‘It’s absolutely insane. I will probably frame that letter’
Emma Raducanu is coming to terms with her new-found celebrity status.
‘Courtside cheerleader’ Tim Henman feels Emma Raducanu has ‘changed landscape’ of tennis and British sport
Tim Henman has tipped the 18-year-old to become a tennis superstar.
WTA Rankings: Emma Raducanu’s massive jump to No 23 after record point haul with US Open title run
Just the 2,040 points added to her WTA Rankings tally by Emma Raducanu.
‘Very, very special star’ Emma Raducanu backed to ‘rule the world’ after winning the US Open
Plenty of praise for young star Emma Raducanu.
When will Emma Raducanu return to the court after her stunning US Open success?
It will be a life-changing moment for Raducanu, who sat her A-Levels only three months ago.
US Open day 14: A perfect anniversary gift from Daniil Medvedev as he prepares to party, Dylan Alcott chugs down beer
There was a fittingly dramatic end to a wild US Open.