Rod Laver backs Novak Djokovic to ‘come back stronger’ as he makes GOAT debate claim

Ewan West
Novak Djokovic answering his doubters again
Novak Djokovic answering his doubters again

Tennis legend Rod Laver believes Novak Djokovic will “recover and come back stronger and more motivated” from his defeat to Jannik Sinner at the 2024 Australian Open. 

The Australian icon described Djokovic as an “incredible champion” and declared it is “expected that he can always win every match” because of his “mental strength and motivation.”

Djokovic fell to a four-set defeat to world No 4 and eventual champion Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals of the Australian Open last month – a loss that ended his 33-match winning streak at the tournament.

The 36-year-old has won a men’s record 10 Australian Open titles, having claimed his maiden major in Melbourne in 2008. His previous defeat at the event had come against Hyeon Chung in 2018.

The world No 1 had one of the finest campaigns of his illustrious career in 2023 as he claimed three of the four Grand Slam events and was also a runner-up at Wimbledon.

The Serbian won seven of the 12 tournaments he entered last year and secured a record-extending eighth finish as the ATP year-end world No 1.

READ MORE: ‘If he was going to lose to anyone, I’m glad it was [Jannik] Sinner,’ admits Novak Djokovic’s coach

Laver lauded Djokovic’s mentality and suggested the 24-time Grand Slam champion will have taken key lessons from his Australian Open disappointment.

“Novak is an incredible champion. He constantly fuels his mental strength and motivation. Precisely for this reason and for all the successes he has achieved in his career, it is expected that he can always win every match,” the Australian told Tennis World.

“In my opinion, Novak Djokovic will have learned something from this defeat [to Sinner]. He will recover and come back stronger and more motivated once again.”

The 11-time Grand Slam singles champion went on to outline why he feels it is difficult to assess who the greatest tennis player of all time is.

“I have always said and I repeat that it is difficult to make comparisons between the different tennis eras,” 85-year-old explained.

“Over time, too many factors have changed, from materials to athletic preparation. Today there are entire teams that work for the players. The best thing is to celebrate the feats without doing comparisons.”

Laver, who achieved the remarkable feat of winning all four majors titles in a season twice, discussed the challenge of the ‘Calendar Slam’.

“Tennis can always be unpredictable. There are no certainties. Winning all four Grand Slams in the same year in singles is one of the rarest honours. It means having to win 28 matches in the toughest matches that everyone wants to try to win,” he added.

“You have to hope to be well, stay in shape and above all you have to be able to beat all the strongest tennis players in the world more than once.”

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