Tennis news: ‘Maybe even beyond’ – Djoker fires ominous warning as he takes inspiration from NFL legend
Novak Djokovic says he’s taking inspiration from NFL great Tom Brady and wants to play to 40 and possibly beyond.
Djokovic, 36, is in Saudi Arabia, where he’s set to take on world No.2 young gun Carlos Alcaraz in an exhibition match ahead of the 2024 season.
He revealed he’s not ready to step aside for an exciting new wave of stars just yet and the greatest NFL quarterback in history has shown him the road map.
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Brady played for 23 seasons before retiring at 44.
“Why stop when you are still playing great? So I will keep going. I know (Tom Brady) personally as well, and I learnt from him, from his example, and, hopefully, I can have a career that goes up to 40 and maybe even beyond, let’s see,” Djokovic told reporters on Wednesday.
“I feel great in my own body right now, and I have been playing some really high quality tennis. 2023 was one of my best seasons I’ve had in my life. I will take it one by one and see how far I go.”
Djokovic hailed Brady as “a great example of a champion in his sport.
“He has put a lot of hours, a lot of time, into self care and recovery, making sure that every aspect of his body and mind is covered so that he can have a long-lasting and successful career.”
‘Sinner is phenomenal’
While most judges see Carlos Alcaraz as heir apparent to Novak Djokovic, Italian Jannik Sinner has started to close the gap according to form England ace Tim Henman.
Henman, a pundit with Eurosport, says Sinner’s storming finish to 2023 has him well placed to make a big push in 2024.
Sinner had an impressive run – with multiple big titles including beating Daniil Medvedev in two finals who he had previously never beaten and also reaching the final of the ATP Finals where he lost to Djokovic.
He also beat Djokovic earlier in that tournament and at the David Cup finals.
Sinner and Alcaraz have been training together ahead of the new season.
“It looks like when Sinner and Alcaraz have played, they’ve had incredible matches. They are different personalities. They’ve got similar games. I think Alcaraz has got a little bit more versatility but in terms of ball striking and power from the back of the court, Sinner is phenomenal,” said Henman.
“I felt that Alcaraz was definitely a good step ahead of Sinner but the way Sinner played at the end of last year, I think Sinner has absolutely closed the gap.”
Osaka putting in hard yards in Brisbane
Naomi Osaka has spent her first Christmas as a mother sweating it out on Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane as her tennis return nears.
The former world No.1 will make her WTA comeback at the Brisbane International, which is making a return of its own four years after it was last contested by men and women.
She has hit the ground running in Brisbane ahead of a tournament that begins on Sunday and is seen as crucial preparation for the Australian Open next month.
The 26-year-old practised for the first time on Christmas Day and is set to hit the court again in humid conditions on Wednesday morning.
A two-time Australian and US Open champion, Osaka was a surprise and mysterious scratching from last year’s Melbourne Park major before later revealing she was pregnant.
The Japanese superstar and her American rapper boyfriend Cordae welcomed daughter Shai into the world in Los Angeles in July.
Osaka has only played one game, let alone a match, since the 2021 US Open in New York.
She was leading Daria Gavrilova 1-0 at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in September, 2021, before the Australian tore an ACL.
Osaka then forfeited her second-round match before taking time out to have her first child.
Rafael Nadal is also set to return from injury in Brisbane in a field so stacked Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini and US Open champion Dominic Thiem will have to qualify to feature in it.
Thiem made the Australian Open final in 2020 and Berrettini was a semi-finalist two years later.
Both are currently sitting outside the top-60 cut off that were afforded automatic entry into the season-opening event.
Former world No.8 Diego Schwartzman and Australian quintet Aleksandar Vukic, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Christopher O’Connell, Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler are also listed in qualifying, which will be contested on Friday and Saturday.
Not all of those five will have to win their way through though with two Australians set to be awarded tournament wildcards on Wednesday.
Australian trio Alexei Popyrin (world No.40), Max Purcell (45) and Jordan Thompson (55) will fly the flag in Brisbane while Holger Rune (8) is the highest-ranked male in the field.
American Ben Shelton and three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray (42) will add further punch.
Reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, along with Elena Rybakina, Jelena Ostapenko, Victoria Azarenka, Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens complete a stacked women’s draw.