Even in these tumultuous and uncertain times across the world some things can always be relied on to stay the same and Novak Djokovic will hope to bolster that theory as he targets a record-extending ninth Australian Open title.
Former Australian Open champion and Eurosport tennis expert Mats Wilander said the strange circumstances in the build-up to the tournament will hurt Djokovic less than most players because of the mental toughness he shares with Rafael Nadal.
However, the Swede said Djokovic, while tough to stop in Melbourne, could be vulnerable early on.
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"I don't see him as the head and shoulders favourite over the likes of Nadal and (Dominic) Thiem," he said.
"He might not be able to necessarily trust his form. It's been a year (since he won his last Grand Slam) and you can't just dig back to the other eight times you won it.
"But I actually think the complaining (about the conditions) or whatever it was is actually a good thing for him because it shows he's keen, looking for revenge."
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With 17 Grand Slam titles to his name, Djokovic remains three behind the record of Federer, who is skipping the tournament, and Nadal and will view it as a perfect opportunity to close in.
That can bring its own pressure, however, and Wilander will be watching the Serb's body language closely, especially after some high-profile Grand Slam disappointments last year.
"Something made him explode at the U.S. Open because he was playing (Pablo) Carreno-Busta and it was only the first set," Wilander said of Djokovic's US Open shock disqualification.
"Something was off there definitely. Then in the final of the French it was an horrific start. Six drop shots in the first game, it was weird.
Maybe his confidence level is not that high right now when it comes to the big moments.
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'THIEM HAS THE MOST COMPLETE GAME'
One of the abiding memories of 2020 was Dominic Thiem's tortuous progress towards his first Grand Slam title in a nerve-jangling U.S. Open final against Alexander Zverev.
It was excruciating viewing as the Austrian battled suffocating nerves and then cramp to finally deliver a long-overdue major some felt might elude him.
With that weight lifted from his shoulders, the 27-year-old now looks primed to prove he is no one-Slam wonder. Vienna-born Thiem has beaten both Nadal and Djokovic in three of their last four meetings.
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Wilander said Thiem was the perfect example of a player finding another level after switching to a battle-hardened coach. In Thiem's case it was Chilean Nicolas Massu, a former top-10 player who won two gold medals at the Athens Olympics.
"I was in Austria a couple of years ago and I was talking to Stefan Koubeck and he told me that as a junior Thiem knew how to do everything - drop shots, sliced backhands," Wilander said.
"Then Gunter Bresnik worked him so hard and made his game so basic. That was necessary to give him that great foundation to be consistent with the basic qualities - the big forehand, the kick serve, trying to bully the opponent.
But I think he got stale. Now when you see him he has got some seriously great hands. I think he has by far the most complete game for me, mixes it up more than Novak and Rafa. Massu has helped him be more creative when he's not playing well, or behind. He's way more mature.
While Djokovic and Nadal show no signs of fading away any time soon, Wilander believes Thiem is poised for a great year.
"I think he has a good chance of being the best player in the world at the end of 2021, to be honest," he said.
Additional reporting from Reuters.
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