Djokovic Delivers Warning to Rivals

Novak Djokovic has issued an ominous warning to his rivals and he prepares to make his return in early 2018. The Serb hasn't played since he was forced to retire with an elbow injury when trailing by a set and a break in his Wimbledon quarterfinal against Thomas Berdych. The problem had been troubling him for more than a year and having ruled himself out for the rest of the season, Djokovic is expected to return in time for the Australian Open in February next year.

It follows a season of upheaval and disappointment for the 12-time Grand Slam champion. He ends the year without a major title for the first time since 2010 and some have questioned whether his best days are behind him. In April, Djokovic split with three members of his support team having already parted ways with head coach Boris Becker at the end of last season. Now he's announced that he will continue to work with Andre Agassi in 2018, having joined forces with the American legend back in May.

Djokovic is clearly feeling positive about his recovery and will aim to return to the top of the rankings by the end of next season. He and wife Jelena have welcomed a second child during the enforced break and his extended family has given him a new sense of perspective.

The Serb told SportKlub, "I am glad that I can be here for six months to be able to organize my life in a way, to lay the foundations for game and for my body and for my life in the future as I do not know how many years (I have left in my career). I'd like to say 10 years, so we'll see how long I will last in professional tennis. I really have no fixed plans, nor is the end in sight."

A similar injury break clearly rejuvenated Federer last year, and although John McEnroe recently claimed that Djokovic would struggle to replicate the Swiss Maestro's spectacular comeback, the Serb could yet benefit from the opportunity to recharge his batteries. He had already lost his world number one ranking to Andy Murray — who has suffered with injuries of his own this year — and was dogged by rumors about personal problems and bemusement surrounding a spiritual guru he appointed to his team before his enforced absence, so it may have come a good time.

One man who clearly believes that the break will prove a blessing in disguise is new physiotherapist Ulises Bado. The Argentine is keen to make the magnitude of the injury clear, but told La Nacion that Djokovic's decision to withdraw from competition for the remainder of 2017 has given his team the chance to manage the condition properly. "Time was required to improve it. The decision he took [not to play again this season] allowed us to have a timetable and not go back and forth about treatment. He has an eagerness to return."

With Murray working towards a similar timetable, the prospect of the "big four," who have dominated the men's game for so long, locking horns again is bound to intrigue tennis fans around the world. Whether Djokovic and Murray can replicate the incredible achievements of Nadal and Federer in 2017 remains to be seen. With all four men now in the 30s, younger players like the precocious talents of Alexander Zverev, Nick Krygios, and Dennis Shapovalov will also sense opportunities to establish their credentials as genuine Grand Slam credentials.

Djokovic will be hoping to fend off the new breed for a little longer yet and add to his Grand Slam haul. He won't start as favorite in Melbourne, but if fully fit, he's bound to a post a threat in a tournament he has won six times before. You can back him at 7/2 over at Redbet, who have Federer and Nadal as 16/5 point favorites, with Murray down at 4/1.

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