Image Credits: Djokovic – © Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY, Nadal – © Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
If he defeats Jannik Sinner in the 2024 Australian Open semi-final, Novak Djokovic could match a rare feat achieved exclusively by Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard is the only player so far in the history of tennis to beat an Italian in the semis of the Grand Slam Down Under.
Djokovic is heavily backed to overcome Sinner and go all the way to lift his 25th Grand Slam title. The latter is only the second Italian to make it to the final four of the Australian Open. Matteo Berrettini became the first in 2022 when Nadal ended his run. Thus, the former World No.1 is the only player to defeat an Italian in the semi-final of the Australian Open.
With Djokovic absent given his COVID-19 anti-vaccination stance, #6 seed Nadal got his hands on the trophy in 2022. He beat Berrettini, seeded 7th, in four sets in the semi-finals. After winning the first two sets, Nadal conceded the third but bagged the fourth to win 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Two years after Berrettini became the first Italian man to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Sinner emulated him. 10-time champion Djokovic now has the chance to beat the latter and join Nadal in the record books.
Co-incidentally, Nadal had also defeated Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round in 2022. This year, Djokovic thrashed the Frenchman in straight sets at the same stage. After defeating Berrettini in the semis, Nadal faced Daniil Medvedev in the final. That could be yet another similarity between his 2022 title run and Djokovic’s current campaign. Medvedev faces Alexander Zverev in the other semi-final and could face the Serb for the championship.
Djokovic could achieve this rare feat of defeating an Italian in the AO semi-finals with a win over Sinner. However, the World No.4 is also chasing a record of his own. If Sinner wins against Djokovic, he will become only the third man to beat the latter in the Davis Cup, the ATP Finals, and a Grand Slam match.
Novak Djokovic dismisses retirement talks as Rafael Nadal could near finish line sooner
It has been two years since Roger Federer hung up his boots. Rafael Nadal has struggled with injuries and barely played any tennis over the last 12 months. Hence, naturally, their Big 3 counterpart Novak Djokovic has also faced questions about his retirement plans. However, the World No.1 is still going strong at 36 and does not show signs of slowing down. He recently claimed he wants to play into his 40s, saying there is no need to retire when he is playing so well.
After his 2024 Australian Open fourth-round win over Adrian Mannarino, Djokovic reiterated his thoughts (via Eurosport). He said he does not want to bid the sport adieu when he’s No.1. He claimed he would consider retiring when he feels he can no longer challenge for Grand Slam titles and play at the highest level.
“I feel while being No. 1 and still on top of my game, I don’t feel like leaving tennis while in that position. I feel like I want to keep on going, and when I feel I’m not able to compete with the guys on the highest level and be a contender for a Grand Slam title then I’ll probably consider going into retirement.”
With young stars like Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz coming up, it would increasingly get difficult for Djokovic. However, as Nadal himself once claimed perhaps correctly, the Serb is obsessed with winning Grand Slams. His hunger to win and his incredible fitness mean he surely has a few more years left at the top.