Novak Djokovic ‘won’t dominate’ in 2022 as world No 1 set to be knocked off pedestal

Novak Djokovic speaks following his US Open defeat against Daniil Medvedev.

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Novak Djokovic is set to struggle in 2022 despite winning three Major titles this year. The world No 1 was aiming to become the first man in 52 years to win the Calendar Grand Slam, and first man ever to capture the Golden Slam, but fell in his pursuit of an Olympic gold medal and the US Open title. Now, seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin has cast doubt over his dominance with the likes of his US Open conqueror Daniil Medvedev stepping up to win the biggest titles.

Djokovic enjoyed an incredible 2021 season full of records, but was unable to achieve his three big goals – completing the Calendar Grand Slam, winning Olympic gold, and capturing the Davis Cup title for his home nation of Serbia.

The 34-year-old broke Roger Federer’s record for most weeks at ATP world No 1 and surpassed his shared record with Pete Sampras for most year-end No 1 finishes with seven, plus managed to tie his long-time rivals Federer and Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles apiece.

However, he often found himself bested by some of the top young players, leaving him unable to complete his goals while within touching distance.

The world No 1 lost to Alexander Zverev during the Olympic semi-final, after being a set-and-a-break-up on the German, costing him the chance to win his first-ever gold medal and complete the Calendar Golden Slam – winning all four Majors plus Olympic gold in one season.

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He then went to New York with the goal of winning the fourth and final Grand Slam of the season to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all the Majors in a single year, but lost to Daniil Medvedev 6-4 6-4 6-4 in the US Open final.

Djokovic’s 2021 season on the tour also came to an end against Zverev in the ATP Finals semi-final, and Team Serbia were knocked out of the Davis Cup in the semi-final after losing the decisive doubles rubber to Croatia, who have the world No 1 duo of Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic on their team.

Now, former world No 1 Henin believes the Serb will be unable to dominate next season as the likes of Medvedev and Zverev are “ready” to take the biggest titles away from Djokovic.

“It’s going to be very interesting to see how everybody handles it. Daniil Medvedev is taking off. Zverev – it will be the year for him,” the retired Belgian told Eurosport.

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“I think he’s ready to go for a Grand Slam in 2022, obviously we’ll still have to see how he does over the five-set question, but you get the feeling that at some point, it’s going to work out for him. He has taken on a new dimension.”

Henin also thinks that the return of Nadal and 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem will spell more trouble for the world No 1, while Stefanos Tsitsipas could also push the Serb after going two-sets-up in the French Open final before losing in five.

She continued: “Medvedev and Zverev have established themselves as the most dangerous rivals. There will be the return of Nadal. Obviously, Dominic Thiem will be back. We’re happy to see these players back.

“Tsitsipas is going to have to manage his schedule quite differently. I think he’s a step down compared to the others in terms of competition.”

After Djokovic spent the year fuelled by his desire to write his name in the history books, seven-time Grand Slam champion Henin wonders if the 34-year-old will have the same drive in 2022.

The Serb famously reached his milestone of winning the French Open for the first time in 2016 and struggled with his motivation after, not winning another Major until Wimbledon 2018.

“And Novak Djokovic? What about his desire? We always have the feeling that Novak Djokovic’s appetite keeps growing. Will it continue like this? It is very difficult to say. He will still want to win. He certainly needs to recharge his batteries now,” Henin said.

“It’s been a tough season. He knows who is going to get opportunities, so maybe he won’t be as dominant as he used to be. At least, that’s what we can assume.

“But Novak Djokovic, he’s full of surprises, sometimes hard to figure out, sometimes hard to predict. And so, it’s going to be a really exciting 2022 season.”

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