Djokovic’s eighth title in Melbourne, sealed with a five-set win over Dominic Thiem, moved him to within three of Federer in the all-time charts.
- Djokovic targets Grand Slam record in two seasons
- Wilander: Djokovic can match Federer's 20 Grand Slams this year
- Djokovic overcomes gallant Thiem to win Australian Open number eight
The 32-year-old now has his sights on surpassing the Swiss great, conceding that he probably has two seasons to achieve it before the rigors of fatherhood take over.
"At this stage of my career, Grand Slams matter the most. Trying to reach that historic number one is something I would love to achieve and I’m working towards that," Djokovic said in front of ecstatic Serbian fans on Eurosport.
Djokovic targeting Federer's Grand Slam record
"Being a father, I really want to participate in the upbringing of my children. I want to spend quality time with them, so I know that the moment I slow down and selectively play tournaments is coming very close.
"I want to have a shot at number one, it’s going to be this year or next year. I’m going to try and give it all and reach that."
So can Djokovic do it – and if so, when might he achieve it?
Grand Slam men's titles (all-time)
|Player||Grand Slam singles titles|
Fanatical For: Experience Novak Djokovic's victory alongside his die-hard fans
Wilander: Djokovic can hit 19 majors in 2020
Eurosport expert Mats Wilander is backing Djokovic to win two more Slams in 2020 to move within one of Federer.
"So winning here, does that make him the favourite at Wimbledon where he is defending? Yes, that’s 18. [It] makes him the favourite at the US Open, that’s 19," Wilander said.
"At the end of the year, we could have two players on 20 or two on 19 or even more because Novak had can win all four."
"This is a huge win for him going forwards. A loss here would have been very difficult to get confidence and come back. But the door is open for him to start climbing through it and talk about being the greatest ever."
When could the magic No.21 arrive?
Firstly, this assumes Federer will not win another Slam. The Swiss’ groin issue in Melbourne highlighted the troubles of transporting a 38-year-old frame through a two-week tournament, but he can’t be completely discounted. Wimbledon remains his best hope, his serve capable of keeping matches super short, but can he banish memories of last year’s choke against Djokovic?
It’s all hypothetical but Djokovic still looks primed for a sixth Wimbledon title (18). But winning the US Open immediately afterwards is far from certain given he’s won 'just' one of the last four editions. A more conservative estimate would suggest No.19 arrives in Melbourne next year before Djokovic wins a fourth straight Wimbledon (20). As for No.21? Given his vow to tone down his commitments after the 2021 season, all his efforts can fix on one final flourish at the US Open.
Of course, there are plenty of problems with this prophecy…
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The Nadal and Next Gen factors
Djokovic is four unanswered Slams from taking top spot in the men’s game – but that relies on two men coming up short.
Rafael Nadal also has a strong claim to the GOAT throne, despite winning 63% of his majors at the same event. The French Open has provided a constant source of joy for the Spaniard, who will go for a ridiculous 13th title in Paris this summer. Should he triumph, he too would be on 20 titles.
But if Nadal is a threat to Djokovic, then who is the threat to Nadal?
Step forward, Dominic Thiem. The Austrian looks the only player capable of beating Nadal on clay, having done so in each of the last four seasons. The 26-year-old has lost the past two French Open finals to Nadal, taking just one set, but his victory over him in Melbourne will fuel belief that he can do it again on his favoured surface.
And it’s not just Thiem threatening to break through. Alexander Zverev finally performed at a five-set event in Australia, Daniil Medvedev emerged as a likable villain when he almost beat Nadal in the 2019 US Open final and Stefanos Tsitsipas looks a huge talent after he won the ATP Finals in London last year.
Djokovic, Nadal and (to some extent) Federer are managing their physical decline by maintaining their aura of invincibility – much like the latter years of Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson – accepting that their Next Gen rivals will occasionally blast them off court, but will lack the belief and consistency to knock them out at majors. But the talent gap has finally been bridged and freebie Slams will soon be in the past for the Big Three.
The upshot? Federer may already be safe of 20 titles. Or, perhaps, Djokovic and Nadal could join him on 20 and then find it impossible to win that elusive 21st...
Djokovic edges Thiem in five-set thriller