STARNBERG, September 15, 2021 (by Matt Goodwinn)
When Roger Federer was taking down Pete Sampras, nobody imagined there would be another tennis player like him. Then, two come at once! Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are both tied on 20 Grand Slam victories, along with the Swiss.
However, it’s the Serb who appears to have the biggest opportunity to go clear of his rivals after winning Wimbledon for the sixth time. If he did, Djokovic will achieve something that many didn’t think possible when Federer and Nadal began a legendary rivalry decades ago. Can he do the unthinkable? The following suggests he can.
Dominating a Decade
The 2010s was an incredible decade for Novak Djokovic because he managed to secure 15 Grand Slam titles to add to the one that he picked up in the 2000s. Compared to Federer, he bagged ten extra titles. Nadal was only two behind on 13. The 2020s have already been good to him, too, as he’s won four times as many slams as his closest competitors.
Djokovic can’t continue winning every tournament he enters. However, these stats highlight that he has a phenomenal record of success in Melbourne, Paris, London, and New York. Even if he loses, Nadal and Federer will need to pick up the pieces to maintain the same pace or edge ahead. Considering the strength of the field, that isn’t going to be a given any longer.
The Fed Express isn’t chugging along like it used to. Part of what makes Federer great is his longevity. At 40 years old, the iconic sportsman is competing at an insanely high level when you factor in his age. Unfortunately, even Roger Federer can’t hide from Father Time as he has already stated that he is considering hanging up his racket.
When you look at the tennis odds for major competitions, it’s not hard to see why. All the latest on tennis matches from upcoming tournaments, for instance, indicates that he isn’t considered as one of the top six favourites. Injuries don’t help, which is probably why Federer is debating his future. For Djokovic, it’s a win-win as he won’t have to face another top player who can beat him, and he doesn’t need to worry about Federer closing the gap.
Throwing Down on Clay
That brings us onto his next closest rival – Rafa Nadal. The Spaniard is good enough to take on Djokovic and win on any surface, yet his banker is usually the clay of Roland Garros. The master clay thrower has a record 13 wins at the event, which is the most of any male player at any grand slam. On top of that, he’s only lost three times in Paris in 108 French Open matches.
Normally, you’d expect Nadal to head into at least one tournament as the heavy favourite, but 2021 changed everyone’s perceptions. Djokovic was magnificent, coming back from one set down to grind Nadal into the clay in four sets. The truth is, the Serb’s flexibility and durability make him a fantastic clay court competitor, and his will to win means he’s never out of the equation. If he can start dominating in France in spring, there’s no doubt that Novak Djokovic will hold the Grand Slam winning record.
What do you believe? Is Djokovic simply too good to be pegged back, or can Nadal and Federer manage to eke out a couple more Grand Slam titles?