Sunday, September 16, 2018

Djokovic and the G.O.A.T Conversation

There has been a lot of discussion about the hardships of life since the birth of mankind and one common belief that has prevailed over the years is that no matter how difficult life may seem, man can always fight it with his outrageous mental toughness and unwavering belief. The same ideology was at display in the Arther Ashe Stadium on Sep, 9th 2018 when the former World's no.1 Novak Djokovic won his 3rd US Open and 14th Grand Slam title. The 31 years old Serb not only equaled Pete Sampras' record but also gave the world another reason to believe that man's reach exceeds his imagination.

I have always been a great fan of Rafael Nadal and have always seen Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic as the two most fierce rivals of the Spaniard, especially the later who has 27-25 record against the 17th times Grand Slam champion. But when one start to consider Novak Djokovic as a tennis player, not as a rival of Rafa or anyone else, one gets the chance to admire the greatness of Novak Djokovic. The objective analysis of Djokovic can lead a person to believe that his game is truly admirable and his dominance over the last eight years has not been given the due credit. Let me break it down for you, the 31 years old from Belgrade has won 13 Grand Slams in the last eight years and he is the only player to win multiple Grand Slams for 4 years out of the last eight. On the other hand, Rafa has only done it twice(multiples slams in 2013, 2017) and Roger has only done it once(2017) in the last eight years. One can argue that Roger has already passed his prime and Rafa has been quite inconsistent over the last eight years because of his injury issues. Still, the consistency and resilience of Djokovic cannot be overshadowed by any means and he must be given the credit for his persistence.

Djokovic, who has 54 Hard Court titles to his name, was forced to miss the later half of the 2017 season with an elbow injury and when he made his comeback in 2018, most of the people including me thought that Djokovic would never be the same. For the first few months, it seemed that Djokovic was in line to face the same fate that Rafa and Roger faced in 2015 and 2016 but the way things turned around in the last three months, it can be said with the most authority that Djokovic is there to stay and he is on his route to surpass the very likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. I have always bragged about arguably the greatest comeback in the history of tennis, when Rafa came back from his seven months layoff because of knee injury and stunned the world by winning two Grand Slams and reclaimed the number 1 spot. Even Roger Federer comeback in 2017 was nothing short of spectacular but after Djokovic's heroics in 2018, i must say that Djokovic's 2018 is almost as good as Rafa's 2013.

The comparison can be very misleading sometimes but the way Roger and Rafa have embraced the sports of tennis, every debate is centered around these two. But the bar, set by these mammoths of tennis, now seems to be in the reach of Novak Djokovic. He is already considered to be one of the greatest Hard Court and Grass Court players and with the form he is in, it is very likely that he will win more majors next year. And from that, one can conclude that Djokovic has the best chance to go past Roger Federer in terms of Grand Slam titles.

Another great thing about Djokovic is the absence of any loopholes in his game. His backhand is equally good as his forehand, he rarely misses his serve and his defense is probably the best of all the active players on the tour. It has also been observed over the years that Djokovic can only be defeated when the other player plays nothing-short-of-perfect match against him, which justifies his win-loss ratio over the last eight years. Before 2015, most of the tennis pundits and fans didn't consider him as part of the G.O.A.T debate as Roger and Rafa seemed to be the only players worthy of the G.O.A.T consideration alongwith Rod Laver and Pete Sampras. But the way Djokovic dominated the tour for two consecutive years(2015 and 2016), reaching 7 out 8 Grand Slam finals and winning 5 of them, made everyone eat their words and showed the whole world that he truly belonged to the elite. His early struggles in 2017 again raised doubts but Djokovic comes out on the top in 2018 and proves that no G.O.A.T debate is legitimate without Djokovic being a part of it.