Novak Djokovic
Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Carine06 (no real name given)

History will leave Djokovic in a league of his own

And so it was. With a run-of-the-mill sweeping forehand, returned wide by a lunging Casper Ruud, Novak Djokovic forever crossed the rubicon of tennis history.

For over a decade, the 36-year-old has had to make do with being one of a ‘Big Three’ or even ‘Big Four’. But now, with the broadest of shoulders, he stands above them all.

It had long felt like a possibility. Two years ago, after defeating Matteo Berrettini to win Wimbledon, he had equalled Rafael Nadal’s tally of 20 Grand Slam singles titles.

But a collapse would follow two months later in September, when the opportunity not just for parity with the Spaniard but tennis immortality via a Calendar Grand Slam would slip between his fingers.

Roll on a little less than two years, via an unfortunate month of vaccine mandate front page headlines in Australia and the retirement of another old foe in Roger Federer, and he was back.

This time the stakes were slightly lower but the expectation all the same. For all his many virtues, did Ruud really have the arsenal to dismiss Djokovic on a court which the third seed has never looked so comfortable on?

This is only the third time in his career that Djokovic has won the year’s opening two Grand Slams

Opportunities would come and go in set one. The Norwegian was not the first and will not be the last to have the now 23-times Grand Slam winner on the ropes. Trailing 4-2, Djokovic could well have been pipped back a set.

But even then, who would have argued against him? Two years ago, he overcame a two-set deficit to stun Stefanos Tsitsipas to the French Open title. This is a man with an unquestioned ability to switch it on when he needs it, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and do it all against the odds.

This is a man who has been prepared to make more foes than friends in his pursuit of greatness, with court controversy over everything from Covid vaccines to Kosovo.

This is a man who, despite his lofty stature in the game, has done it all as the outsider. He once stood 15 slams behind Federer and eight behind Rafael Nadal, a gulf you would be forgiven for thinking was insurmountable.

But the dream was never too big to dismiss for the Serb, at once both green and ruthless, and now it is finally his.

And he shows no signs of stopping. Unlike Nadal, whose career now looks likely to end with a fizzle rather than a bang, there is more fuel in the tank.

Significantly for Djokovic, that most coveted of achievements remains within reach. Only 14 wins are required for the world number one to join Rod Laver and Steffi Graf as a singles Calendar Slam winner in the Open Era.

This is only the third time in his career that Djokovic has won the year’s opening two Grand Slams. Back in 2016, the hope of the famous achievement petered out at Wimbledon, when Sam Querrey shocked the exhausted Serb, who was just a few weeks from completing his career set of Grand Slam trophies.

Then there was 2021 and the similar sense of a step too far, in a year which also saw Djokovic chasing Olympic gold in Tokyo.

And while it will be a tall order, the record-breaker can only have learnt from past experience.

What follows is a fascinating few months watching one of sport’s very greatest in pursuit of another staggering achievement. Either way, when all is done, he will stand way above and beyond his peers for success and longitude.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.