Pardon this reiteration.
I must not be paying attention. I have, counter to much of the tennis world, had Djokovic an all-time great for a couple of years now. Granted, anything can happen; I suppose we can’t assume too much, but when you see a consistent game starting to emerge and do things like Djokovic did in the 2012 Australian Open Final against Rafael Nadal, such legitimate tennis excellence is hard to ignore. I recognize that he has lost some tough-to-swallow finals; recently I lamented his loss at the 2015 French and a few days ago clarified we’re still on schedule following his 2015 Wimbledon championship. On schedule for what? On schedule to challenge the top of the sport, all-time.
Indeed, a lot has to happen and has to work-out for the superb Serb to accumulate the victories and overall evidence to convince this persnickety tennis crowd of his greatness. But bear in mind: he most certainly can.
As is perhaps the case with this blog and my position on certain sporting matters, if there is a public perception that I see as somewhat delusional, or flawed in any way, I want to try to bring attention to that. Sally Jenkins’ recent article about the lack of appreciation for Djokovic seems odd to me, since I have been appreciating and elevating his game for 2-3 years now. People are still not getting Djokovic? Do people think he’s living-up to his nickname Djoker? Pay attention, folks. This is a serious competitor who can (will he?) at any point now put it into cruise control and virtually own men’s tennis, especially at the majors. Up next is his MUST win at the U.S. Open to curb anymore doubt about his late season “fitness” and that 1-4 history. After that, we give him a pass at the Australian Open (he has won five of those) so he can concentrate on and win the French, the one major (he’s been to three finals) that’s proven too difficult to win (as it has for many tennis greats).
With nine majors in his possession, he should win the USO in September and (to reach his potential – not very many tennis players have this kind of potential, so I don’t say this lightly) win three of four in 2016. Sure, that’s dominant and let’s say he doesn’t quite win the next four of five majors, his growth in the game and happiness on and off the court should manifest a total of 12 to 13 majors by the end of 2016 (and think of the missed opportunities he’s already afforded). Is it too much to ask that he has 12 majors by the end of 2016?
He’s fit and with special attention to his diet (weight) and flexibility (athleticism), his viability should extend 3-4 more years. Jenkins says, “Do the math: If he can sustain this kind of play over the next five or six years, he could hold 20 majors.” That’s a bit unrealistic. Five to six years? But three to four is certainly feasible. Do the math.
Part of this public oversight of Novak Djokovic is the immense love for Federer and Nadal (don’t forget about Rafa). Djokovic has had to overcome those personalities and games. He is doing just that. Look what he did to Rafa on the clay at Roland Garros this year (all for naught we might say) and Roger (again) on the grass. Give it time, folks.
We will be discussing Roger’s legacy in the coming days. Something we will certainly touch-on is how a field or even a draw affects a champion’s journey. Djokovic (as I just said) has had to define himself in this age of the Big Four. All of his Major finals’ victories have been against Murray, Federer or Nadal (although he did vanquish Tsonga in his first Australian Open). Think Djokovic has had to face much pressure on the court?
This concentration of talent (and greatness – two of the GOATs) has to add to Djokovic’s legacy, especially if he continues to build this historically significant resume. Indeed, we will give it time.
But it’s better to get out in front of these stories, instead of waiting to be surprised and left looking like some kind of sophomoric passenger on whatever bandwagon is rolling into town. That’s why we need to be bold, ask questions, fire-off theories and make informed conjecture based on our passion and diligent study and instinct for the sport.
As I said in my last post: “it’s the Djokovic era.” Enjoy!