Australian legend Rod Laver believes Novak Djokovic is ready to follow in his footsteps and complete a calendar-year Grand Slam.
The Serbian world number one and defending champion will face Scotland’s Andy Murray in the Australian Open final tomorrow.
The calendar grand slam has not been achieved in men’s tennis since the Australian legend last won it in 1969.
Laver, 77, won all four major titles in the same year twice in his career, and said Djokovic was “well on his way” to the Grand Slam after he fell just one win short last year.
“I think it’s good for the sport if someone does win a Grand Slam. This is not a club that (only) I’m a member of. It’s an open course,” Laver said in Melbourne.
“I think someone like Novak is I think well on his way trying to accomplish that.
"Yes, we’re at the very beginning. I remember when Roy Emerson and I were competitors back in our era.
“After one of us won the Australian, you’d say, I guess I’m going for the Grand Slam. Everybody knew about it. That’s the same way I think Novak will be able to accomplish it.”
Facing Djokovic will be Murray, the pair meeting for a fourth time in the Australian Open decider tomorrow.
Murray fended off an injury-hampered Milos Raonic 4-6 7-5 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2 at a floodlit Rod Laver Arena.
The Scotsman’s focus never wavered and he roared on to close out the match and ready himself for another tilt at champion Djokovic, who has beaten him in all three of their finals.
“Five finals is a great achievement,” Murray said yesterday. “You can’t take that away from me. I have a very good shot on Sunday if I play my best tennis.”
Raonic, the 13th-seeded Canadian, has one of the biggest serves on tour but Murray more than held up his end, if not matching the power of Raonic’s rockets or his aces.
Twice-grand slam champion Murray was broken only once in the opening game but took the 25-year-old’s serve four times.
“When you play against someone who is tough to break like Milos, you need to protect your own serve to put pressure on them,” Murray, runner-up last year to Djokovic, told reporters after the four-hour classic.
“I think at the end of the fourth set I did very well. I won some of the breakpoints I faced.
"I came up with some good second serves. You know, changed the position of the second serves on a few points.
“Served close to the lines. That was big. But against anyone it’s one of the most important shots, if not the most important, especially tonight.”
Murray was on the back foot against the Canadian for much of the match, and had to bide his time for his chances.
He had virtually no hope in the third set tie break as his opponent denied him a look at a second serve.
As the match wore on, however, Murray said he felt he adjusted to the pace and movement of Raonic’s missiles, and his ability to get a racquet to them was key to levelling the match.
“I just tried to keep going, keep making as many returns as possible, and continue to make it difficult for him,” Murray said.
An adductor muscle injury to Raonic’s right leg slowed him in the decider and the Canadian expressed his frustration by smashing his racquet after being broken early.
Meanwhile Serena Williams has warned her Australian Open final opponent Angelique Kerber she is playing even better than last year when she won three grand slam titles.
Williams is yet to drop a set at the first grand slam of the season and she enters today’s final as the hot favourite to clinch a seventh Melbourne crown.
The American has been in tremendous form, thrashing Agnieszka Radwanska on Thursday and taking the first set 6-0 in just 20 minutes.
Williams, 34 believes she is showing even better form now than in 2015.
“I would say this is probably the best slam I’ve played in a year, and I’ve won a lot in a year,” Williams said.
“I know my practices are better. Hopefully I’m playing better. So I definitely can play more consistent and more mentally stable, so to say.
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