Annabel Croft and Greg Rusedski feel Novak Djokovic is on course for complete world domination in the coming years.
Djokovic described his return to the No. 1 ranking as “a phenomenal achievement” knowing he will replace Rafael Nadal as the world’s top player on Monday after a two-year absence.
The 31-year-old is looking to win the Paris Masters for a record-extending fifth time and his elevation back to the top is remarkable, as it comes just five months after he slumped to 22 in the world – his lowest ranking for 12 years – when he was knocked out of the French Open in the quarter-finals.
But since then, he has been riding on a crest of a wave, having triumphed at Wimbledon, Cincinnati, the U.S. Open and Shanghai, winning 29 of his past 30 encounters in an incredible run of form.
“I honestly believe that he has exceeded his own expectations,” Croft told Sky Sports. “They said they had a plan in place when they got (coach) Marian Vajda and the fitness trainer (Gebhard Gritsch) back on side again. But I think the plan was to play well at the U.S. Open – I think it came a lot earlier than that. He said the catalyst was playing as well as he did on the grass courts.
“Remember, he came very close to winning Queen’s where he lost to (Marin) Cilic, but he also admits to extremes in how he looks back at his year because only five months ago, he was in dire straits. He was all over the place. He was so off-balance in everything that he was doing on the court, particularly on the backhand side, and now here he is full of confidence. He’s found joy back on the tennis court again.
“Five months ago, he was in a very, very dark place, and I really honestly believe that he has exceeded all of his expectations.”
It was in 2016 when Andy Murray usurped Djokovic for the No. 1 ranking in Paris, so it is almost ironic that the Serb has returned to the top of the rankings in the French capital.
“He went into such a deep decline after losing that top spot. He’s going to be one of the few who have come from such a low ranking and now to be back at number one on Monday is going to be absolutely extraordinary,” added former British No. 1 Croft. “Tennis is not easy, but when you go to the depths of despair and you find a way to build yourself back up again, he almost looks twice as strong as he has ever looked before.
“What a record he has already achieved in his career and who knows what he might go on and achieve. I did not see what he achieved this year coming. I thought it was going to take him a lot longer to get back.”
Rusedski has reiterated the fact that he expects Djokovic to continue to dominate men’s tennis and says the 31-year-old could well surpass Nadal and Roger Federer in the Grand Slam stakes.
“He’s doing things that other players haven’t done before,” said Rusedski. “We always talk about Federer and Nadal, but this guy Djokovic has a real shot to go down in history, and possibly as the greatest to have ever played the game. He’s only six (Grand Slams) away from Federer and at the pace he’s playing right now, there’s a real chance.”