Former No 1 explains how Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal can ‘play until they’re 40’

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Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have been tipped to continue playing until they are 40 years old, like their rival Roger Federer, if they can manage their schedules properly. Former world No 1 Jim Courier shared his wish for the 20-time Grand Slam champions to continue playing for several more years, and explained how they could alter their seasons to ensure longevity in their respective careers.

Djokovic is continuing to break records aged 34, with his most recent accomplishments coming at the Rolex Paris Masters.

The Serb was able to clinch the year-end No 1 ranking for a record seventh time, having previously shared the record with Pete Sampras with six finishes at the top spot in the rankings.

By defeating his US Open conqueror Daniil Medvedev in the final on Sunday, he also lifted a record 37th Masters 1000 trophy, a record he previously shared with Nadal on 36 titles.

Meanwhile, the Spaniard is gearing up for his return to competition after shutting down his season ahead of the US Open to give his troublesome left foot injury time to recover.

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Nadal had barely played since June, when he suffered a shock semi-final loss at Roland Garros, his most successful tournament where he is a 13-time champion, and later revealed he aggravated a left foot injury during the match.

The world No 6 made a short-lived comeback at the Washington ATP 500 where he played just two matches before ending his season, and now set to return at next month’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship, an exhibition in Abu Dhabi, before starting the 2022 season at the Australian Open.

Now, former world No 1 Jim Courier has shared his hopes for Nadal and Djokovic to keep playing for many more years, while crediting the Serb’s recent success in Paris-Bercy.

“I think that that’s an under-valued asset as far as achievement goes,” the four-time Major champion said of Djokovic’s record seventh finish at year-end No 1.

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 “There’s too much weight put on the number of majors, but weeks at No 1 really speaks to the body of work, especially when you factor in that these three champions, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, are all doing it largely at same time.

“It’s so remarkable that Novak has been able to track these guys down and now leapfrog them in a number of vital categories, seven times year-end No. 1 and running away with the weeks at No. 1 as well.”

The Serb has been the most successful player of 2021, winning three Grand Slam titles and making the final of the US Open, but has played just ten tournaments this year.

Djokovic took two months off between the Australian Open and the clay court season, skipping the Miami Open, did not play any events between Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and only played the Olympics between Wimbledon and the US Open.

His only post-US Open tournament so far has been the Paris Masters, and he will finish the year at the ATP Finals in Turin before representing Serbia at the Davis Cup Finals.

Jim Courier cited Djokovic’s clever scheduling as the way he and Nadal and continue to play until they are at least 40, likening the tactic to Federer’s, as he said: “I think he’ll pick his spots to get four, five, six week breaks like we’ve seen.

“That’s what extended Federer’s career so beautifully, too. Federer picked his spots and played sparingly from a young age.

“I hope we’ll be as lucky to have Novak and Rafa play until they’re 40 like we have with Roger, and hopefully beyond. But playing a lighter schedule will go a long way toward keeping him fresh and probably healthy as well.”
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