Djokovic close to scaling tennis's Everest: Agassi

Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:35pm EST
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic may never have a better chance to complete his career grand slam than at this year's French Open but those predicting the decline of claycourt king Rafa Nadal should be wary, according to Andre Agassi.

Had it not been for the Spaniard, Djokovic would already be part of the elite club of players to have won all four majors -- one that Agassi joined when he finally prevailed in the French capital in 1999 against Andriy Medvedev.

Twice Djokovic has been felled by Nadal in the final while in 2013 he lost an epic five-set semi-final.

World number one Djokovic's dominant start to the year and Nadal's sluggish return from more injury woes means that the odds are shortening on him ending the Spaniard's dominance on the red dirt which has earned him a record nine titles in 10 years.

"Rafa has been the Mount Everest of Roland Garros and climbing him is like climbing Mount Everest without the sherpas and the oxygen," Agassi told Reuters TV at the launch of his BILT by Agassi & Reyes range of fitness machines at a sports club just north of London this week.

"Djokovic has nearly reached the summit of that mountain a couple of times and is no doubt playing at a level above everybody else right now.

"He believes he should win. I think he can and deserves to but he doesn't deserve it if Rafa gets himself right and shows up again like he has. I will be as excited as anybody to see if Rafa really is going to be vulnerable. It seems that way now but it's seemed like that before."

Agassi, 44, hung on long enough to watch the emergence of Nadal, who he describes at the most physically intimidating player he faced in a career that reaped eight grand slam titles.   Continued...

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after beating Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic at the end of their semi-final match at the ATP Championships tennis tournament in Dubai, February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah