Tennis

Novak Djokovic will be top of tennis for years to come

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It may not have ended in the exact circumstances that Novak Djokovic would have hoped for, but his ATP World Tour Finals title, won by default, confirmed something everybody knew - despite the absence of a classic final showdown with Roger Federer - and that is that the Serb is number one.

He qualified as the best and justified it in London with a string of irrepressible displays, even though at times the crowd would have like to have seen the seven-time Grand Slam champion tested some more.

Djokovic has been consistently brilliant all-year round and, to be fair, his Grand Slam haul for 2014, of one Wimbledon crown, isn't a true reflection of his domination.

It took eventual winner Stan Wawrinka, in the form of his life, to down him at the Australian Open in a marathon semi-final. Another shock was his US Open exit at the same stage by Kei Nishikori. Both times he came unstuck against players desperate to reach their maiden Grand Slam finals.

TOUR CHAMPION AGAIN

The 27-year-old actually ensured he would end 2014 as the world's best player, officially, much earlier on in the season-ending tournament in the mathematical jungle that is the ranking point system, but leaving the English capital without the big Finals trophy, his third in succession, would have left the tag looking a little flimsy.

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The only moment of true dejection for Djokovic would have undoubtedly come at the French Open. It remains the only major that eludes him, and that pill is even tougher to swallow seeing as though it's his great rival Rafel Nadal that continues to deny him Roland Garros glory.

ONE REGRET?

Much like the crowings of Liverpool fans before every Premier League season, this finally looked like it would be Djokovic's year on clay. He had Nadal on toast in their head-to-head matches and had found a new level on the dirty surface. After gliding through the rounds in Paris, it was Nadal, the familiar foe, that once again denied him in an epic final - despite taking a set lead. 

However, after scrapping with the Spaniard and Federer for  the coveted number one spot for much of the last 12 months, it finally looks like Djokovic can pull away at the top of tennis' tree. 

Lets look at the darkhorses to challenge him and work our way up.

The past year has been one of breakthroughs for those in the fringes of excellence. Nishikori, Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov; they've come forward leaps and bounds. Though it remains to be asked - who can add consistency to their occasional displays of brilliance?

Unfortunately, right now, you would have to say none of them. Every name that I have mentioned have each experienced career highlights this season, but none of them have kicked-in in the weeks and months afterwards. They cannot afford to go missing after big wins; the best guys don't do that.

NO ONE CAN STOP DJOKOVIC

Andy Murray? - Lets be realistic; that ship has sailed.

If you don't count the consistently good, never excellent likes of Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer, then you are left with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to challenge for the number one spot, as per usual.

For me, Nadal is facing perhaps his toughest year in quite some time when 2015 comes around. He's been severely blighted by injuries, and while he has a good track record of overcoming issues, at 28-years-old it will only get harder to stay at the top levels with such harmful and recurrent problems.

So what about Federer? The 33-year-old has had the most remarkable six months or so and has, at times, returned to the sort of performance level that won him 17 Grand Slam titles.  

CHALLENGER?

If his withdrawal from the ATP World Tour Finals finale showed us anything, however, it is that he is finding it increasing more difficult to go the distance in epic contests - like against Wawrinka. That ability to win marathons is something which, up until now, has been a feature of his legendary profile. 

At the moment, Djokovic's closest rivals are only getting poorer, those who are getting better, on the other hand, are still nowhere near good enough. 

At 27 and with a clean bill of health - this is the point where Djokovic should dominate the field to such a point where nobody on the planet can doubt his place alongside the likes of Federer, Nadal and Pete Sampras.

He should remain the uninterrupted world number one for years to come and more than that - he deserves to be. Djokovic might not always be the fans' favourite, but he's certainly one of the best in every other aspect. 

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Topics:
ATP World Tour Finals
Novak Djokovic
Tennis

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