Novak Djokovic ‘needs to win’ Australian Open to win Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battle

Novak Djokovic has to win the Australian Open if he is to win the ‘Greatest of All Time’ battle between himself, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. That’s the belief of former British No 1 Greg Rusedski.

The defending champion in Melbourne, Djokovic is seeking his 18th Grand Slam, which would move him two behind Federer and Nadal who are on 20 apiece.

The 33-year-old’s last triumph came in Australia with Wimbledon being cancelled in 2020 and the Serbian being defaulted at the US Open, where neither Federer and Nadal were present.

Djokovic reached the final of the US Open only to lose to Nadal in three sets at Roland Garros as the Spaniard joined Federer on the most Slams of all time.

The 39-year-old Swiss icon is absent from 2021’s first Slam of the year giving Nadal the chance to overtake his long-time rival and move on to 21.

But Rusedski believes it is pivotal for Djokovic to come out on top at Melbourne Park if he wants to go down as the greatest men’s player ever.

He opened his account with victory over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy and then defeated American Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

Rusedski told Express Sport: “The race for most Slams in the men’s game, what a story. Australia’s going to set the tone.

“Djokovic needs to win if he’s going try to get that record. I think Djokovic and Nadal will both surpass Federer for most Slams but Nadal will do it this year because he’s going to win the French Open so it’s 21. Huge story.

“[Dominic] Thiem, [Daniil] Medvedev, [Alexander] Zverev, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, [Andrey] Rublev, can you guys crack another Slam? Can Thiem win another Slam? Possibly the French.

“Can one of these guys knock out one of the big three generation? Will this year be Federer’s last because of the Olympics and Wimbledon?”

Rusedski is also excited about the potential stories on the women’s tour and continued: “Women’s tennis, what’s going to happen there?

“[Iga] Swiatek, will she be able to continue that run at the French Open? Will Biancu Andreescu the Canadian come back and play? Who’s going to be the next big thing?

“We get all those storylines in the first week in Australia! You’ve got story after story and that’s what makes tennis so interesting.

“We’ve been blessed with this generation, Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Federer, it’d be great to see [Andy] Murray at Wimbledon, that’d be a huge story for him to play Wimbledon and hopefully we can get the crowds back.”

Djokovic, meanwhile, insists he is not at all jealous about the success of Federer and Nadal and said: “I respect all of my opponents’ records.

“[Roger and Rafa] are legends of our sport, and I admire them a lot. They have positively affected my game and my growth, my development and all my success wouldn’t be what it is if these two guys were not there.

“So I have had tremendous rivalries with these two guys and we still keep on going. But I don’t want any of their success, if you know what I mean.

“I’m not jealous of their success or anything like that. I try to build my own career and my own success.

“I have been fortunate, without a doubt, to experience a lot of success and break records in our sport that I obviously love and am very passionate about.

“Of course, I am always motivated and inspired to achieve big goals and break records.

“I have been very transparent about the fact that one of my biggest goals is to try to reach the No. 1 all-time weeks record, and I’m getting closer and closer to that one.

“Obviously, that’s kind of a lifetime achievement for me and Grand Slams, as well.

“Of course, I think I have managed to be very consistent at the [ATP] Masters 1000 events and win a lot of titles there. Those are the biggest events that we have on the Tour other than Grand Slams.”