Dominic Thiem expects a Roger Federer-like comeback from Novak Djokovic but not necessarily from the other injured top players who were sidelined during the 2017 season.
Djokovic will make his long-awaited return from an elbow injury in Abu Dhabi this weekend, at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, appearing for the first time since Wimbledon last July.
Federer, who was out of action for the second half of 2016, enjoyed a stunning comeback this year, winning the Australian Open in his first official tournament back, and adding a 19th major to his tally at Wimbledon a few months later.
Rafael Nadal also had injury problems during the 2016 season but stormed to the No. 1 ranking this year, winning two Slams himself.
Djokovic, and other players who have missed time on tour due to injury in 2017, like Andy Murray, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori, will all be looking to make successful returns in 2018, but Thiem believes it won’t be a walk in the park for all of them.
“I think we can expect the same (from Djokovic) because he is I think in the same league like Roger and Rafa, also one of the greatest players of all-time,” the fifth-ranked Thiem said of the Serbian star.
“I think he’s even probably more dangerous and better, if his injury is fine and if he had some time to recharge everything. I think everybody wants to know how he’s playing again and we’ll see his first matches here.”
But Thiem doesn’t expect the same from the rest of the sidelined crew. The 24-year-old Austrian ended the season inside the top-10 for a second year in a row, making his top-four debut last month.
He is aware it could be tricky to hold onto his position in the rankings with the imminent return of top guys like Djokovic, Murray, Raonic, and Nishikori, who have all dropped out of the top-10 due to their six-month absence.
“For sure it’s going to be tough to stay in the top-10 or to get there like last year because of all the injured players but still I think we all had a good year and also for them it’s not going to be easy,” explained Thiem.
“Some of them were out for a long time. Maybe Novak, but I think nobody else will make a comeback like Roger and Rafa, it’s too tough I guess. So I think everybody can look forward to a great and tense start of the season.”
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