Another glorious fortnight has come and passed for Novak Djokovic, and another Grandslam success has left everyone wondering how on earth he is going to be brought back down to earth. Last night’s epic against Rafael Nadal was an exhibition of patient and deadly tennis from start to finish. As he has done all year, he went toe-to-toe with Nadal in every long, hard-hitting and gruelling rally and more often than not he came out on top. The brutal nature of this match was most evident in their incredible 17 minute long game on Nadal’s serve in the second set. Mark Petchey (Sky’s commentator) added perspective when he said that you “can get full sets of tennis that only last that long”, it was a phenomenal demonstration of physical and technical ability from both men but there was a sense of inevitability about it’s eventual victor.
This game further underlined Djokovic’s fantastic year which has seen him win 10 titles, win 3 Grandslams and only suffer 2 defeats. This has been the stuff of dreams for the Serb and doesn’t he just know it. More to the point doesn’t Rafael Nadal just know it…
The likes of Nadal and Roger Federer have too had magnificent years of domination since their emergence as the super powers of World tennis, but I don’t think either of them would argue that they’ve been quite this brilliant over the course of one season. It is outrageous that anyone could reach this stage of the year with only two losses (one of which was due to retirement) in any generation of men’s tennis, let alone in arguably the greatest and strongest era of all time.
Federer is widely regarded as the best player ever and he has only managed one victory of Djokovic this year, and Nadal has been labelled the major threat to Federer’s crown but he hasn’t managed to beat Djokovic at all this year. The only man other than Federer to beat him this year was Andy Murray and though Murray controlled the match throughout it was eventually due to retirement that he prospered, and it remains unclear whether Murray’s domination was down to Djokovic’s inhibited play. Even in spite of the immense competition at the top of the men’s game, this year Novak has been simply untouchable.
This year has been a masterclass from Djokovic and he has taken he some of the greatest players of all time out of their comfort zones on a consistent basis. It is fair to assume that Federer and Nadal would regard Djokovic as the significant threat to their legacies and that in itself is great testament to his ability and incredible form. So is it too early to considered one of the greatest players of all time? Maybe it is, but this past year has certainly written his place in the history books.
Given the level of Novak’s domination this year the next few months are incredibly important for all of his rivals in preparation for the next Grandslam event, the Australian Open, in January. In the wake of the US Open it seems there is an awful lot of ground to make up but there have at least been some glimmers of hope for the chasing pack in the last major of the year. The first man to really cause concern for Djokovic was his compatriot Janko Tipsarevic who matched up well to his more illustrious friend in a four-set match that resulted in his retirement through injury. This challenge was followed up by a huge scare against Federer who threw away two match points having led the Serb by two sets to love, but somehow Novak managed to find a way to summon the energy and nerve to battle back and take it in five.
It is said that true champion’s come up with the goods when their backs are against the wall, and at the moment that is a key element to his success. Some time in the future his form is inevitably going to run out and tougher times will face him but for now it is unclear when that time will come and who will be the players that can bring about something of a demise in his fortunes. We know of course that the likes of Federer, Nadal and Murray can compete strongly with him when they are at the top of their games but who else could give him a sleepless night or two? Perhaps some of the more extroverted and athletic competitors on tour like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan-Martin Del Potro could manage to ruffle his feathers but it is hard to see where a consistent threat is going to come from outside of the World’s top four players.
For now Nole is number one and it appears that he could be there to stay for quite a while. Next on his agenda is the aim of completing a career Grandslam and who’s to say that he can’t go on and do it?