By winning the Wimbledon final on Sunday, Novak Djokovic confirmed something that was already very obvious among most stakeholders in the sport: he is the best in the world by a considerable distance and nobody is at his level.
Having been teetering on the verge of a shock exit way back in round four, the Serbian found his groove from two sets down and wouldn’t drop another set until the final with Roger Federer.
Federer, the Swiss veteran, had his fans and well-wishers dreaming of a dream eighth title at Wimbledon and a long overdue – now impossible-looking – Grand Slam no.18 when he wrestled the momentum from Djokovic to level things up in a titanic tie-breaker at the climax of the second set.
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The title could have been the perfect ending, perhaps, in the illustrious career of the 33-year-old but his opponent, not for the first time, prolonged his Grand Slam drought with another comeback. Djokovic wins when leading from the start and is unflappable when going behind; how can he be matched?
It has gotten to the point now where the world no.1 cannot be beaten by anybody else, the only person who can beat Djokovic is Djokovic himself – as proved at the French Open.
How long will it go-on like this? Like any imperious force, there has to be a resistance, an uprising. Federer and Andy Murray are the two at the moment, the former will find it harder and harder while the latter just seems to lack the consistent Grand Slam winning formula that is needed.
Nobody else is getting close to Djokovic, and it will take some years for somebody else to become worthy of being a challenger. In the meantime, you would be a fool to select anybody other than the Serb as a Grand Slam favourite, regardless of which event, for the next three years at least.
As mentioned, only Djokovic himself – be it mentally or through injuries – can get in the way.
Stats-wise; how far could this go? Sunday’s SW19 becomes the ninth Major in the trophy cabinet. Rafael Nadal, on 14, a rival of years gone-by, would be the next logical and realistic target.
It can go further than Nadal though. Djokovic is eight behind Federer’s haul of 17 which has stagnated to a standstill for three years.
It’s surely an unthinkable target, right?
Federer is five years older than Djokovic, he’s eight titles ahead and there are four Grand Slams per year. The unthinkable becomes certain reality when you realise that the 28-year-old need only win two Majors per year for the next couple of years to do it.
For a start, would anybody comfortably write-off Djokovic’s chances of winning the next five Slams before 2016?
You can look at Nadal and say that an injury and subsequent downfall like the Spaniard’s could be just around the corner. True, but Djokovic has never been a massive injury-worry, like Federer. Imagine how many more titles the Swiss star would have won without the completion…Djokovic doesn’t look like having the same level of competition in his twilight years.
Who will be the next player to win 18 Grand Slam titles? He definitely played on Centre Court on Sunday and I think he’s the one that cried tears of joy.