Former World No 1 Andy Murray believes that Dominic Thiem would not have won the US Open had Novak Djokovic not been defaulted from the tournament for hitting a lineswoman with a ball accidentally.
Djokovic’s latest triumph at the Australian Open shines a harsh light on just how far the next generation still is from the Big 3 when it comes to winning Grand Slams.
The Serb defeated Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in the Australian Open final on Sunday to claim his ninth title in Melbourne. He also closed the gap on the Grand Slam leaderboard by winning his 18th major: only Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have 20 each, have more titles.
“I expected the final to be closer to be honest but I also know how good Novak is there and when he’s on his game and obviously highly motivated,” Murray said in a recent interview.
“I saw before the final Medvedev said something along the lines of Novak having immense pressure on him, which is true.
“But those guys have been at the top of the game, they’ve been dealing with immense pressure their whole careers and they know how to deal with it and perform at their best level when it matters.”
By winning a record-extending ninth title, Djokovic also stemmed the rut at Grand Slams. He was disqualified from the US Open for hitting a lineswoman in the throat accidentally and then went down tamely to Nadal at the French Open final.
Nadal and Federer did not compete at the 2020 US Open. Thiem capitalized on this rare opportunity, beating Alexander Zverev in five sets in the final to win the New York major.
“The younger guys, for me, they’ve not shown that they’re particularly close,” the 33-year-old added.
“Obviously what happened at the US Open, Thiem obviously did what he had to do to win the event but if Novak hadn’t put a ball through the line judge’s throat, it would be the same outcome I think.”
Murray, who has been struggling with hip injury for the past few seasons, could not make the trip to Australia as he had contracted the virus and was unable to find a suitable quarantine solution.
“I didn’t watch any because I wanted to be there myself,” he said of the season’s first major. “It was a struggle to be honest.
“I stopped following all the tennis players I follow on social media and stuff because I just didn’t really want to see it.”
The Brit will make a comeback at the ATP event in Montpellier.