Tennis is a game of precision with the slightest adjustment being the difference between a forehand winner down the line and an unforced error that shifts the momentum of the entire match. Tennis is a game where perfection is nearly impossible to achieve—but this year Novak Djokovic has come pretty close.
It all started in January when the 24-year-old Serbian won his second Australian Open title—the first being in 2008 when he defeated an unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga .
Since then, Djokovic has gone on to complete a nearly flawless season, earning a total of 64 match victories, and only falling short twice this year. Even then, one of those defeats came when he was forced to retire against Andy Murray in Cincinnati due to a shoulder injury.
During this spectacular year, Djokovic earned a total of 10 tournament titles and, along with his Australian Open title, he added both Wimbledon and most recently the US Open, giving him three out of the four Grand Slam titles this year.
With his most recent victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night, Djokovic becomes only the sixth man in the open era to capture three major titles in the same calendar year. The company he now joins includes tennis greats Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer and — the very man he defeated in the US Open final — Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic appears to be unstoppable, and the statistics certainly seem to suggest that Djokovic is completing one of the greatest years in the history of men’s tennis, perhaps the greatest. His return game rivals Andre Agassi’s, who has frequently been referred to as the greatest returner the game has ever seen.
Would it have even been conceivable a few years ago that someone would be able to defeat Federer after being down two sets, and faced with two match points in the fifth set? Or even a year ago, would it have seemed possible to break Nadal 11 times in a Grand Slam final match?
Probably not, but Djokovic did both those things on route to capturing the US Open.
It’s hard not to jump on the Djovovic bandwagon. Between his impressive play, his famous impersonations of Maria Sharapova, and his sweet dance moves, Djokovic seems like a pretty likeable guy — although the fifteen ball bounces prior to each serve might annoy some opponents.
But despite his astonishing results this year, it still might be too early for Djokovic’s name to be said in the same light as tennis greats. Let’s face it — even with his four Grand Slam titles, Novak is still trailing Federer by 12.
He deserves praise for perfecting his game, increasing his fitness —apparently a gluten-free diet has helped — and his ability to find a way to break through the seemingly unbeatable duo of Nadal and Federer to reach number one in the world. But he doesn’t deserve to be praised as the new tennis king, at least not yet.
He is having an unbelievable year—a year many say will be nearly impossible to repeat, but it going to take a lot more than one year for his name to be etched into tennis greatness.
Djokovic is young, and right now he doesn’t seem to have many weaknesses in his game, so it’s completely conceivable that he could dominating the men’s side and racking up Grand Slam titles. But it’s also completely possible that Djokovic has an unforgettable year, flames out, and then quickly becomes forgettable.
But for now the greatest ever debate should be laid to rest and Djokovic should simply enjoy the present, because if there is one thing that can be agreed upon, it’s that right now Djokivic is perhaps playing his greatest tennis.