When Federer won his 17th grand slam title at Wimbledon in 2012, most tennis aficionados believed – and some still do believe – that his record would never be touched. A few others believed that if any man would catch Federer, it would be his age old rival, Rafael Nadal. Despite his, at the time, new found champion’s aura, nobody even remotely considered Novak as the man who could chase down a player widely regarded as the greatest player of all time. Nobody but maybe Djokovic himself and his fans. He might have begun to justify that belief.
Djokovic’s 2015 season concluded with a fitting victory at the World Tour Finals in London’s O2 arena. The WTF is generally regarded as one of the toughest tournaments to win, owing to the sheer quality of the playing field – the eight best and most consistent players in the world. This year marked Djokovic’s fourth straight victory at the event. But that’s not all. Consider that this year, Djokovic was exactly one match shy of posting a calendar year slam and his dizzying record at the masters tournaments, as well as victories over top ten opponents, and you will see how scary good the Serb has been over the last eleven months.
What is most impressive however, is how far Djokovic has come. If we peer back in time, five years ago to be exact, Djokovic was in Andy Murray’s shoes. Getting ready to lead his country to Davis Cup glory. He was also in another Andy’s shoes… Roddick’s. He had exactly one grand slam title, to his name. Today, Djokovic has ten. To put it in perspective, Djokovic has won nine grand slams in the past five years, while Federer has won exactly one. He’s also slowly clawed his way back from heavy H2H deficits against the mighty Fedal, and tied with each man in back to back matches.
What Djokovic has done is to successfully position himself to shoot down the homestretch towards penultimate greatness. I noted silently, as I watched the way he dispatched Nadal in the semifinals, that he did so in almost a dismissive sort of manner. It was akin to a man swatting an annoying fly out of his view. And Djokovic is a man on a mission. Seven slams is a lot. And a lot can happen in two years – the minimum amount of time it would take Djokovic to catch Federer. But in this moment, who do you see stopping the marathon man?