'It's insane watching him move the way Djokovic does' - Laura Robson names the five tennis stars who will take over from the big four
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Novak Djokovic heads into the Australian Open as favourite to win the tournament, as he attempts to catch Rafael Nadal, but one day, eventually, the two men will have to be replaced at the top of tennis and Laura Robson has named those who could take the mantle.
It's just year ago that Djokovic was being deported from the country, due to his lack of a Covid-19 vaccination, and being told he would be banned from entering the country for three years.
That allowed Nadal to complete a remarkable comeback from injury to win the first Grand Slam tournament of the year and become the first man to win 21 of them, beating Djokovic to that accolade in a place the Serb had won nine times before.
This year the Wimbledon champion returns to reclaim his crown, he will be expected to win, especially now that Carlos Alcaraz has unfortunately pulled out due to injury.
Speaking to SPORTbible ahead of the Australian Open, which is live and exclusive on discovery+ and Eurosport, commentator Robson said she felt last year's episode could make the number four seed even more determined to win than usual.
"Yeah, you know, he won the tournament in Adelaide last week, against some really top players that was such a stacked draw," Robson said, "And he's someone who enjoys the conditions of Melbourne and has done incredibly well here.
"It's crazy to think how many times he's won this tournament. So, you know, a bit of a bit of adversity always spurs people on, why not?
"I'd see him as a favourite anyway, especially now that Alcarez is out."
Djokovic and Nadal still remain leading players on tour, but Roger Federer has retired and Andy Murray has never quite reached the levels he previously had before hip surgery.
It means that the era of the big four is coming soon, not that it's not been said in the past, only to see them win yet more slams, and Robson believes that Alcaraz is best placed to replace them but could be joined by two British stars.
"We do keep saying that the big four are going to finish soon.
"But you've got to go with Alcaraz he's got he's got to be in there. You know, the kid is just an outrageous athlete.
"I got my boyfriend tickets to see him in person because he liked him anyway from watching him on TV. And they came back and was like, 'it's insane watching him move in person and how much court coverage he's able to come up with and, you know, sliding on both sides into the splits the way Djokovic does.'
"Outside of him, I put Jannick Sinner. Who else? I think there’s actually going to be an extremely strong top 10.
"I kind of throw in Jack Draper to be honest. And then you've got all the Americans coming through, Taylor Fritz obviously has to be in there. Frances Tiafoe is playing really well at that moment. And then hopefully, there's room for Cameron Norrie as well."
Norrie is 11th seed in Melbourne for the next two weeks whilst youngster Draper has to come through the toughest of first round tasks, against Nadal.
Australian born Robson believes the pair are playing extremely well right now, "Cam for me played outrageous tennis in in Sydney at the United Cup last week. He's hitting the ball so clean at the moment, he's somehow even faster than he was before the offseason.
"And he played a bunch of exhibitions and stuff in December, which actually really suits him and doesn't suit everyone, but it suits Cam because he loves to actual actually play matches that feel real that he can tactically figure out how to win. And I just feel like he's improved massively over the last couple of months.
"I think the thing about Cam is you have to play so well to beat him, especially over five sets, just because he's so fit. So it's tough for just about anyone on tour, to get through him. And to have that win against Rafa last week as well, just to have that extra bit of confidence always helps.
"And then, you know, Jack is playing seriously well, as well, it's great.
"You know, I went out and watched his match against Tommy Paul, which was a really good win for him. And it was funny because it was on a small outside court. And Jack's got such a big serve of that Tommy was just in the fence the entire time.
"Just couldn't, couldn't find a way to read Jack's game. As as the big lefty, just on the outside in particular, he was just bombing down aces.
"So, you know, I see him as someone who's going to improve so much more over the next couple of years. And he's got such a big game that's fun to watch. So hopefully he's able to stay healthy as well."
Tennis is the latest sport to be given the Drive to Survive treatment, with documentary Break Point having had its first six episodes go on Netflix ahead of the tournament.
The 28-year-old revealed she started watching Formula One thanks to the sport's now famous show and hopes that Break Point will do similar for tennis.
"If it gets more people into tennis, then I love it. You know, I haven't even seen it yet. And I just think it's got such a an opportunity to grow the game. Millions and millions of people watch Drive to Survive. If it has that sort of impact, then it would be crazy.
"You know, I didn't watch Formula One until I watched Drive to Survive. And so I hope that same thing happens in tennis because it's just so interesting.
"There's so many good storylines. There's so many players who have come through adversity and playing better than ever."
One man who could be even more in the spotlight thanks to the show is Nick Kyrgios, with the first episode following the Australian round last year's Open on home soil, where he actually won the men's doubles with partner Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Robson has no doubts that Kyrgios can handle the extra exposure, saying, "You know, I think he's probably used to the scrutiny at this point. It's been quite some time that it's been going on, and he seems to be handling it better than ever."
He had the best year of his career when it came to the slams, going on to reach the final at Wimbledon, where he lost to Djokovic, and then reaching the quarters at Flushing Meadow.
And the former world number 27 believes Kyrgios can eventually win a major, with questions about his mentality now put to one side. "I would love him to win a singles slam. You know he's such a personality for the game. And he has so much talent, that you almost don't see how he couldn't win a slam because, I just go into every match thinking Nick can beat his opponent today, just because he's so naturally good at reading the play, and his serves just getting better and better and more consistent.
"So yeah, I mean, I could see him for sure winning, winning at Wimbledon, or it'd be nice, if he could do it in Melbourne, as well in Australia.
"The doubles definitely spurred him on. And just the fact that there was a bit of an opening around the summer last year with Nadal being injured and a couple of other people not playing their best tennis. And Nick definitely saw that and stepped up to the plate."
Robson's enthusiasm and excitement for the game and its future really comes across when you speak to her, and when she's in the commentary box too.
Hopefully those on the courts in Melbourne over the next couple of weeks can justify that excitement, we're likely in for a good one if that happens.
Watch every match from the Australian Open live and exclusive on discovery+ and Eurosport.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
Topics: Tennis, Australian Open, Australia, Spotlight, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal