John McEnroe exclusively in Legend’s Voice: “Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are just fighting”

The Australian Open casts its shadow, the first big highlight of the tennis calendar will take place in Melbourne between January 16 and 30.

John McEnroe looks forward to the new season in the latest episode of the Eurosport Legends’ Voice series. The former world number one predicts a successful year for the young guard around Holger Rune, Jannik Sinner and the currently injured Carlos Alcaraz.

McEnroe says Daniil Medvedev, who gave up a two-set lead over Rafael Nadal in Melbourne last year and then struggled with problems, needs to find a new attitude.

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By John McEnroe

Hello dear tennis fans,

At the start of the new tennis season, I am particularly curious to see how the young generation around Holger Rune, Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz and Félix Auger-Aliassime will fare in 2023. It’s a shame that Carlos misses the ‘Australian Open.

I expect great things from these guys and I believe they are capable of amazing things. It looks like they could prematurely overtake the generation around Alexander Zverev or Stefanos Tsitsipas. We debated how many Grand Slams they can win, but ultimately it was the big three, especially Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who continued to emerge victorious. Of course, from time to time we have seen new champions, for example Daniil Medvedev or Dominic Thiem triumph at the US Open.

We’ve always been waiting to see who will make the big breakthrough. It looks to me right now that Rune and Alcaraz – as long as they stay healthy – will win many major tournaments.

Sinner also belongs to this group, Félix Auger-Aliassime has made very big progress in recent months – and I guess he also has the quality to win several majors.

Young people will dominate the next ten years

It will be interesting to see if some of the guys who are currently in their mid to late twenties can step up a gear and keep up with the top talent. For me, these are the players who are going to take the lead and dominate for the next ten years.

You can sense that these young people are fearless. You have the right to be at that age, you don’t know anything better and it’s even an advantage for a while. For this reason, this year will be very interesting for Alcaraz. After all, he is the youngest player to finish the year as number one. It’s an incredible achievement, but the expectations are much higher now than they were a year ago.

Holger Rune at Roland Garros

Photo credit: Getty Images

From my point of view, Rune overdid himself a bit at Roland-Garros in June, the pressure obviously got to him. But then he recovered and we could see what he was made of; so it will be interesting to see what happens with him this year.

American players also push each other and have the belief that they can compete at the highest level. If I had to pick one, I’d probably pick Sebastian Korda, he’s the youngest in the current US top flight and the one with the biggest advantage right now.

Frances Tiafoe has also improved a lot, Taylor Fritz is already in the top 10 and has a great career ahead of him. Reaching the top will be a difficult task for him, but he has increased the pressure on the other American boys. We’ll probably see a few Americans in the top ten of the world rankings soon.

Medvedev ‘must find a whole new attitude’

Now on to other guys: Zverev was injured for a long time. It will be interesting to see how he recovers. Medvedev, meanwhile, never recovered from losing the match to Nadal in the Australian Open final last year after leading by two sets in my opinion.

Daniil has to find a whole new attitude: he was number one at the start of the year, he has now slipped to seventh place. That’s a pretty dramatic drop for someone so close to winning the Australian Open.

Daniel Medvedev – Australian Open

Photo credit: Getty Images

Such a defeat can sometimes remain etched in your memory. I lost to Ivan Lendl at Roland-Garros in 1984 and I’m getting over it now! I feel like Daniil is still struggling; when you’re so far ahead and you have victory right in front of you, it’s not so easy to stay focused. I was lucky enough to win Wimbledon shortly after losing to Lendl, it eased the pain but you never forget that. Nevertheless, you have to learn from it. He has enough experience to use the Australian Open final as a boost.

But it’s not just that: the war in Ukraine and the fact that the Russians were not allowed to play at Wimbledon also influenced him; the terrible events affect everyone, but especially Ukrainians and Russians – and that makes things even more difficult. It was a terrible year from a political point of view, which Daniil did not leave cold either. Andrey Rublev is another guy who says a lot of good things and preaches peace when he plays. It is very gratifying that he does this. You just have to take into account the fact that all the men and women of these countries are concerned.

“How long will Rafa and Novak last?”

Another big question for 2023 is how much longer can Rafa and Novak really hold out? In my opinion, the two are just fighting each other, so they have a real incentive to win a few more tournaments before retiring. I trust them both.

Honestly, I don’t know if Novak or Rafa will settle the GOAT debate once and for all this season. I continue to be impressed with all the Big 3. I mean Roger just stopped playing and what Rafa did in Australia in 2022 and then Roland Garros speaks for itself. It is almost impossible to bet against Novak in Melbourne and against Rafa in Paris. Novak has won the Australian Open nine times. After what happened to him in Melbourne last year, it will be very interesting to see how the fans react to him and how he reacts to his return.

Novak Djokovic in the final in Adelaide

Photo credit: Imago

I see him as a favorite and from my point of view Rafa remains the man to beat at Roland Garros. The man has won the French Open 14 times. As long as he plays, he will always be the favorite of this tournament. And I heard that Rafa was still desperate to play that he was hungry. Novak too.

There are more and more young players and, as a fan, you hope that they will take their game to an even higher level. This does not make it easy for Rafa and Novak. But you should never write them off. Novak seems the hungriest to me. Of the big three, he is the one who seems to want to be the record Grand Slam winner and therefore the GOAT.

Whatever happens, I have a feeling we’re going to see an exciting generational battle over the next 12 months.

Best regards and have fun with the Australian Open at Eurosport,
Sincerely, John McEnroe

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UPDATED ON 08/01/2023 AT 12:59 PM

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