Popovic marvelled at the efforts of Djokovic in winning the Australian Open with a tear in his hamastring.
He also called back to Nadal’s incredible runs to win the Australian and French Open in 2022 while in chronic pain.
Popovic told L’Equipe: “If it hadn’t been a Grand Slam, Novak wouldn’t have played. But since he is chasing records in the race for the best of all time, he took that risk and did an incredible thing. There are a lot of stakes to become the “GOAT”, you have to make this sacrifice.
“Novak knows that Australia is the Major where he plays best. It’s the same for Rafa at Roland, his garden. He won’t do that (put his foot to sleep) at Wimbledon. It’s normal I think. But they’re not the only ones doing this. At least 50% of guys have a problem arriving at a Grand Slam. Many play with ‘painkillers’ (painkillers, editor’s note).”
While he looks set to take a break ahead of the clay season and not travel to the United States for the Sunshine Double, Djokovic is hungry for more success at Roland Garros.
“I don’t want to stop here.
I have no intention of stopping here. I feel great about my tennis. I know that when I feel good physically and mentally present, I have a chance to win any slam against anyone. I like my chances for the future. But again, nothing is given or taken for granted.
Of course, there are many players who want this trophy or want the number 1 position in the world,” Djokovic explained
Respected tennis journalist Steve Flink believes that Djokovic has just as much of a shot at winning Roland Garros as an ailing Nadal.
“I think Novak Djokovic has a very good chance at the Roland Garros. Obviously, Rafael Nadal will start under the odds in Paris, but Nole knows how to win that tournament.
“Nole is the second best player in the world on clay,” Flink said on the the Court-Side with Beilinson Tennis podcast.
“Of course he can win another Roland Garros, I don’t understand why there are people who doubt it. He played an extraordinary Roland Garros in 2021, coming from Stefanos Tsitsipas two sets after an epic semifinal against Nadal.”