Djokovic: A question of when, not if?

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Novak Djokovic is increasingly becoming tipped to surpass Roger Federer’s record of winning twenty Grand Slams. At 31, six years the junior of Federer, he is only five Grand Slams behind.

Yes, Federer’s five-year Grand Slam drought ensued when he was 31, but this is doubtful to be the case for Djokovic given his recent form back from injury.

Following Wimbledon 2017, Djokovic announced the end of his tennis season due to a persistent elbow injury.

Here we take a look at Djokovic’s rise back to number one following a twelve-month dip in form, that has seen him re-instated as the dominant force in men’s tennis.

Following Wimbledon 2017, Djokovic announced the end of his tennis season due to a persistent elbow injury. He fell to 12th in the ATP rankings, his lowest position since 2007.

In January 2018, Djokovic confirmed he would be undergoing elbow surgery and would be out of play until the Indian Wells Masters in March. A win loss ratio of 6:6 saw the Serbian native fall to 22nd in the ATP World Rankings, a spot he had not held since he was a teenager. 

However, what followed has been recognised as one of the most monumental comebacks seen in tennis history, rivalled only by, as one would have guessed, Federer.

Djokovic became the first man since 2000 to finish the year ranked number one in the world after sitting outside the top twenty in the same season. His season finished with a 53:12 win loss ratio.

And how did Djokovic, the man who the BBC reported to be “a shadow of the man” he was, following surgery, achieve this winning streak?

After a narrow loss in the final of Queens Club Championships in London, (narrow being defined as having a match point), Djokovic went on to win Wimbledon 2018, beating Rafael Nadal in his second longest semi-final at Wimbledon.

This was followed two days later by a straights set blitzing of the 6-foot-7 South African Kevin Anderson in the final, to lift his 13th Grand Slam trophy.

Yet it did not stop there. After an unexpected third round defeat to tup-and-coming Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Canadian Open, Djokovic won the Cincinnati Masters, beating Federer in the final, the then World Number Two. Not only this, but Djokovic became the first singles player in history to complete the Career Golden Masters by winning all nine ATP Masters 1000 events.

There were questions as to whether there would be a repeat of Djokovic struggling to maintain his form, as was the case after winning the French Open in 2016, where he became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to be the champion of four consecutive Grand Slams. These questions were answered. Djokovic went on to win his third US Open Grand Slam title, to bring his Grand Slam tally up to fourteen. He subsequently rose to number Two in the ATP World Rankings.

There was no surprise when the fall hard court season came around, and Djokovic, now the rightly re-instated favourite for each tournament he entered, continued his impressive winning streak by winning the Shanghai Masters.

So far in 2019, Djokovic’s impressive run has continued

Following Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from the final masters event of 2018, the Paris Masters, Djokovic was guaranteed to end the year as Number One, regardless of what stage in the tournament he reached. If you hadn’t already guessed, in true champion style, he reached the final, before succumbing to Khachanov, but not before beating Federer for the second time in 2018.

So far in 2019, Djokovic’s impressive run has continued. After only dropping two sets in seven matches, Djokovic won the Australian Open, making it his third consecutive and 15th overall Grand Slam title.

Whether Djokovic can win the French Open and therefore hold again all four Grand Slam titles in a row remains to be seen. But if his recent form is anything to go by, it would be ludicrous to suggest otherwise.

It only seems fitting that Djokovic won his fifth Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsman of the Year in 2019. After all, the award is presented to “the sportsman who best demonstrates supreme athletic performance and achievement.” To question Djokovic has done anything other than this would be obscene.

Competing in an era with both Nadal and Federer is no easy feat, but the dominance Djokovic has re-instated begs the question of when, not if, he will surpass Federer’s 20 Grand Slam titles.

Image: Tatiana via Wikimedia Commons

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