Todd’s Tennis Takes: Djoker’s Place Among the GreatsTuesday, July 5, 2011 16:37
Novak Djokovic is already carving out his place among tennis’s all-time greats.
Todd’s Tennis Takes – Djoker’s Place Among the Greats
It’s time to start pondering Novak’s place among the tennis greats, now that he has 3 Slams, 2 Slam runner-ups, and a 48-1 record this year, and now that he is clearly the best tennis player in the world, while also playing during Nadal’s reign (10 Slams and counting) and while Federer is still formidable, though clearly far below the dominant player he was from 2004-2007. Just imagine if Djokovic was not playing during the Federer/Nadal Era…he’d have 7 or 8 Slams for sure – after all, he’s been #3 in the world since 2007.
As it is, Djokovic’s 3 Slams puts him tied for 38th all-time, and that includes all the 19th-century players, who had byes into the Final as defending champs in many Slams. He will close 2011 as one of only 11 players in ATP history (post 1973) to finish Top 3 at least 5 times in their career…and here is the super elite club that he will join: Connors, Agassi, Borg, Lendl, McEnroe, Becker, Edberg, Sampras, Federer, and Nadal. In addition to these greats, you have to throw in some pre-ATP legends – Tilden, Lacoste, Fred Perry, Budge, Gonzalez, Laver, Rosewall, Lew Hoad, and Emerson. Also, from the ATP-era, add in Wilander with his 7 Slams and 4 Top 3 finishes…and Vilas, with his 8 Slam finals, 4 wins, and 62 career titles. So Djokovic currently resides at the outer edges of the Top 22 players of all time. What will the future bring?
Federer is in decline and not a threat if Djoker plays at 95% or better – he played worse than that in the French Semi’s this year–making the Wimbledon win so big for him a month later, staying strong mentally against the far more formidable Rafa in the Finals. Rafa is now 0-5 against him this year, while still up 16-12 over Djokovic career-wise…but Rafa probably can’t take his game any higher than it has been, while Djoker has dramatically improved his game in 2011, turning 24 (athletic physical peak) during this year. His play in the Finals was supreme, deep stinging lasers constantly pressuring Nadal, with defense that Rafa is only used to seeing when he watches highlights of himself.
I can see Djoker winning 4 or 5 more Slams, finishing the year #1 more than once, and climbing into the top 10 all-time discussion by the time he is done…he is an incredible fast-twitch athlete whose height and reach exaggerates the effectiveness of his game. Beyond that, he is beautiful to watch play, sliding into his hits while also including body rotation to turn defense into offense in a very unique, balance & strength intensive motion. I’ve been watching tennis since Borg was winning Wimbledons and Djokovic is among the Top 3 most entertaining players I’ve watched, alongside Borg and Marcelo Rios. Guillermo Coria and Marat Safin round out my Favorite 5.
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