Paris, June 7: Novak Djokovic expects Dominic Thiem to challenge at an increasing number of majors but is unsure if the Austrian can replace Andy Murray as the "Ringo Starr" of tennis' "Fab Four".
Djokovic, Murray, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have dominated the modern era of the sport, with all but one of the grand slam finals since the 2005 French Open seeing at least one of them feature.
Murray has only played three grand slam matches since reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2017 due to the struggles with injury that forced him to take an extended break from the sport, though he has confirmed he will return to play doubles at Queen's in June.
Clay-court specialist Thiem finished as the runner-up at Roland Garros in 2018 and will meet Djokovic in the semi-finals this year, the top four players reaching the penultimate round of an ATP Tour event for the first time since the 2012 Australian Open.
When asked if the Austrian can replace Murray as the "Ringo Starr" of a group with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, the world number one laughed and said: "I'm sure some people would debate if Ringo Starr was the least famous. Some people liked him the most!"
He continued: "I think it's great to have the top four players competing in the semi-finals on the biggest event because it brings even more rivalry, more importance to those matches and to the tournament in general.
"I want to say that I'm really pleased to see that [Murray's] coming back to the court. He's going to play doubles, and hopefully singles very soon after.
"And Dominic is deservedly where he is, one of the top four guys, especially on clay. That's where he's playing his best tennis.
"If he continues playing this way, not just on clay but in general, I think we will probably be seeing him more often on different surfaces in the final stages of the tournament.
"How far us four, other than at this tournament can create something that we have created with Andy? I don't know. It's a different time for us now than it was five years ago now. We're a bit older.
"But, you know, we have still been enjoying some of our best tennis in the biggest events, talking about Federer, Nadal, and myself. That's great to see.
"Obviously, Nadal and Federer are arguably the biggest legends of this sport and best players, [most] successful players ever, so to be in the mix with them and to have myself a successful career is quite a great feeling."
#ATP Top 4 players are in SFs of a tour-level event for 1st time since 2012 @AustralianOpen (488 events since then).#RG19: No. 1 @DjokerNole, No. 2 @RafaelNadal, No. 3 @RogerFederer, No. 4 @ThiemDomi— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) June 6, 2019
2012 Aus Open: No. 1 Djokovic, No. 2 Nadal, No. 3 Federer, No. 4 @Andy_Murray
This year's French Open will also see Djokovic, Federer and Nadal compete in the semi-finals at the same grand slam for the first time in seven years.
"I mean, Roger didn't play the last couple of years [at Roland Garros], if I'm not mistaken. You know, it happens. In big tournaments like slams … it seems like everyone has an extra gear, extra motivation to really perform their best and to shine in these tournaments," said the top seed in Paris.
"Because obviously these tournaments count the most in the history of our sport, so of course they inspire players to play their best. And you can actually see more surprising wins against top players here and maybe other tournaments.
"I think we all have been quite consistent. I didn't know about that, so it's great."