Former World No 1 Marit Safin does not think Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will have to worry about Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray much next year.
Djokovic has been out of action since July with an elbow injury, and Federer and Nadal have gone from strength to strength in his absence, dominating all four Grand Slams between them in 2017.
Many are expecting Djokovic to return ready and refreshed some time in the new year, but Safin believes it will be difficult for the Serbian to return to the top in the way both Nadal and Federer have done.
“The next season Nadal and Federer will always be in the lead, while I do not see Djokovic able to return to very high levels, for him it will be a difficult situation,” he told Live Tennis.
As for Murray, who will also soon be making his return from injury, Safin doesn’t think he will trouble the aging top two much either.
“Murray will have some highs and lows, but if Nadal and Federer do not get hurt, he will not be able to do anything,” Safin said.
Safin also gave his opinion on the age-old Federer v Nadal debate, and as far as he’s concerned, Nadal is the more impressive player of the two.
“Nadal is more impressive than Federer,” he added.
“The latter had everything to be successful, while Nadal is a true wrestler and worker.
“He’s sweating more and does not get tired.
“For Federer it’s all easier, though Nadal gives the impression that tennis is a simple thing for him.”
Safin admitted to being surprised to see that the same players who were dominating the sport when he retired in 2009, are still doing so now, though players like Alexander Zverev could soon start to change that.
“Federer and Nadal have been there for a long time,” he said. “If you see top ten, it’s still the same people than when I retired in 2009. But it will change. 30-year-olds will be replaced by younger players who are faster and will improve as time goes on.
“Alexander Zverev has a lot of potential, but he is still too much young. In a year or two he will be a different player. He still sees himself as a junior, but he is not a junior anymore. He needs to trust himself and keep working.”