In early February, I wrote an article where I posed the question ‘Will Novak Djokovic Become The Greatest Player of All Time?’. My answer? A begrudging ‘yes’.
Can Anyone Stop Nole?
The reason I decided to entertain and answer that question was that Novak had just won the 2020 Australian Open. This feat took him to 17 Grand Slam Singles titles at the age of 32. Which meant he was just 2 grand slams from Rafael Nadal, and 3 grand slams away from all time leader, Roger Federer. Heading into the remaining 3 slams of the year, I thought Novak had tremendous momentum over Federer & Nadal and would likely capture 1-2 more grand slams in 2020 alone. But then… well, you know the rest.
The entire world was thrown into upheaval with the onset of COVID-19, putting a screeching halt to the ATP tour. Tennis is set to resume in August, with Wimbledon 2020 cancelled and September including both Roland Garros AND the US Open. This hopeful timeline is relient upon the cooperation of players with regards to strict health guidelines to combat the potential outbreak of the pandemic.
So what did Novak Djokovic do? He organised and held a charity tennis event in front of a large crowd without any social distancing. The players involved socialised off-court, playing basketball and football, as well as going clubbing. Several of the players, including Djokovic, his wife, coaching staff and others, tested positive for COVID-19 in the aftermath.
Djokovic is the head of the ATP Player council and carries tremendous responsibility as a leader in the sport. I think this incident and the ramifications of it will hurt Djokovic. I think that the fallout, coupled with the placing of 2 grand slams close together, bodes well for 1 man.
It’s Thiem Time
World #3 Dominic Thiem, aged 26, has won 16 titles so far in his career. He’s picked up wins over the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. With Federer out through injury, I think it is a fair assessment to put Thiem into ‘The Big 3″. He defeated Rafa at the Australian Open this year, before losing an epic to Djokovic in the final. He also has a decent 4-7 record against Djokovic, which includes two wins at Roland Garros.
His big nemesis has been Rafael Nadal. But I suspect after the win over Rafa in Melbourne earlier this year, Thiem feels confident heading into Roland Garros. After tasting defeat against Nadal in the semi-final and twice in the final, Thiem’s time is coming.
Will Thiem Win A Slam In 2020?
It may be a somewhat bold prediction, but I think that Thiem will win a grand slam in 2020. This looks most likely to happen at Roland Garros. It may sound sacraligious to predict anything other than a Rafael Nadal win in Paris, but in a year dominated by strange occurences, this prediction seems somewhat … measured.
Dominic has shown he has the formidable power off both wings to trouble both Djokovic and Nadal, as well as excellent movement and a big serve. The main attribute he has developed, however, is his belief in his abilities. To beat 2 of the greatest of all time, you need to go for your shots. Again, and again, and again. I think Thiem now believes he can be world no. 1. If he manages to do well at the US Open (where he is defending no points from an early exit in 2019), a win at Roland Garros would actually put him within touching distance of Djokovic. From there, the sky is the limit. I think with the impending retirement of Roger Federer, Thiem can join Nadal as the only serious resistance to Novak Djokovic’s march towards becoming the Greatest Of All Time. Can Dominic Thiem stop Djokovic becoming the GOAT? Absolutely.
With 2020 dishing out surprise after surprise, why wouldn’t there be one more?