Tennis Elbow: Novak Djokovic remains the King of the Barclays World Tour Finals

November 23, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2015 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Novak Djokovic has been so good this season that he has even won the WTA Finals. Look, it says so right here.

Alright, these types of mistakes happen to everyone and shame on me, perhaps, for pointing my big fat finger right at it. I know. Whatever.

For the fourth year in a row, Djokovic won the Finals of the ATP, not the WTA, of course—or the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals if you’d like to call it by its full and proper name. He beat Roger Federer in the final once more, this time by the score of 6-3 and 6-4 in 80 minutes. In winning this match, he avenged his loss against the Swiss in the round robin. (More on that one in a minute.)

With the win, the Serb finishes his finest season yet. “It’s been an incredible season,» Djokovic said after his win. «Obviously, sitting here with this trophy alongside me, I couldn’t ask for a better finish to the season. The last four years I managed to win the (Barclays ATP) World Tour Finals, where the best players in the world are playing. For some reason or another, I’ve been playing some of my best tennis after the US Open, in Asia and also indoors, both Paris and London.»

How great was he in 2015? He finishes the year with an 82-6 record, including 27-1 at the four Grand Slams, something like $19 million in prize money and 11 titles, three of which came at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. These World Tour Finals were the 15th straight final he had reached at the Tour Finals, Grand Slams or Masters 1000 he participated in. Of the 15, he’s won 12 times.

If it seems like Djokovic is utterly alone at the top right now, it’s because he truly is. (And also because we’ve mentioned it just two weeks ago after another Masters 1000 title, this one in Paris.)

We could continue on and on on that front for a long while, so let’s just go ahead and do it: this win in the Tour Finals against Federer was his 23rd in his rivalry in 45 matches against the greatest player of all time. He also has a 23-23 record against Rafael Nadal, supposedly the best ever on clay and one of the five or so best in history. For his career, Djokovic is up to 686 wins and only 146 losses (including 45 against just Federer and Nadal), and 59 titles.

He’s still just 28 years old and should continue to add to these totals for a few years, both because he continues to excel and because his main rivals keep getting worse.

And through it all, what I’ll remember most from these Tour Finals is the pseudo controversy Djokovic created after his round robin loss to Federer.  “I made a lot of, lot of unforced errors. I just handed him the win, especially in the second set,» he said after losing the match. “He tactically played well. Undoubtedly, he was the better player on the court. But I think I also allowed him to play and penetrate through the ball and dictate the tempo from the baseline.”

This being the gentlemanly sport of tennis, Federer didn’t take too kindly to Djokovic’s comments on the match. “He handed [me] the win? Well, he wasn’t as good as in the first set. But I feel, honestly, with the way he’s played this season, you still have to put him away,» he said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s not like he played terrible. I know he can play better. Why did he play that way? I’d like to give myself credit for that, quite honestly, yeah.”

Welcome to tennis, where any comment that isn’t overly complimenting of your opponent will be perceived as a slight.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: Previewing the 2015 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

November 16, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2015 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

And then there was one—as in, one last tournament.

Before we close the books for good on an excellent 2015 season, tennis’s eight most elite players have arrived in London and are competing in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, not quite for all the marbles because the Tour Finals aren’t a Grand Slam, but for quite the large prize and title.

Let’s run through the eight characters present at the O2 in London and assess their chances. Obviously, our predictions will reflect the opening day’s matches; we publish this column on the Monday, but the Tour Finals start on the Sunday. Oh well.

Again, here are the two groups for the tournament this week.

Novak Djokovic: Novak Djokovic

Again, these players are the elite of the ATP, the eight very best players in the world in 2015, but only one of them is Novak Djokovic. We’ve discussed plenty of times the excellence of the Serb this season, notably last week when he became the first man in history to win six Masters 1000 events in a season, so we will not bother repeating the same things. We’ll simply say that he’s peerless and as long as he’s still motivated after 10 titles and 78 wins in 83 matches, he’ll cruise to a title in London.

The (crowd) favourite: Roger Federer

The London crowd would very much like to see Roger Federer add a seventh Tour Finals title to his resume. Throughout the history of the sport, there probably has never been a more beloved champion than the Swiss, who has amassed enough goodwill for a lifetime, or three. Now 34 years old, the Swiss is still among the very best of the sport and has even managed to turn around his rivalry with Rafael Nadal—though that says more about the latter.

The enigmas: Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych

We group Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych together, because we believe both are the wild card of their group: they could either win it all or lose it all, with a knockout stage berth the most likely outcome. Murray has done enough in 2015 to ascend to the No. 2 ranking in the world again, making the semifinals or better at most of the events he competed in this season. And yet, it doesn’t feel like the tennis community sees him on the same level as a Federer, let alone Djokovic. Berdych, meanwhile, is an enigma in that he’s become utterly reliable and consistent. It’s weird.

The dark horse: Stanislas Wawrinka

Stanislas Wawrinka will emerge as the dark horse because he’s legitimately excellent and is possibly the one player on Tour who’s consistently done well against Djokovic over the recent little while. If the field has a chance against the Serb, it’s probably with Wawrinka.

Happy to be here: Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer

With apologies to the two gentlemen here, we don’t expect much from them. Just by qualifying for the event, Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer have both already surprised and exceeded expectations.

The legend: Rafael Nadal

Do you know how many times Rafael Nadal has won the Tour Finals in his career? As many times as you and I have. He’s unlikely to emerge victorious now, at age 29, diminished and after having fought tooth and nail for a place at O2 for the second half of the season.

The Spaniard can’t even beat Federer anymore. Welcome to the new normal.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: Novak Djokovic wins another Masters 1000 in Paris

November 9, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon reviews the 2015 BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.

The record will show that the tennis world was in Paris last week for the 2015 BNP Paribas Masters.

Of course, World. No. 1 and all-around superstar Novak Djokovic rendered it all obsolete and more or less cruised to a fourth title in a row in the French capital. He defeated Andy Murray, supposedly the second best player on the ATP World Tour, by the score of 6-2 and 6-4. (Coincidentally, this is also the scoreline the last time you played against John Doe at your local club. You lost of course because you’re terrible. Andy Murray isn’t terrible.)

Djokovic was as gracious as ever after the win. “There was couple of games in the second set where Andy started turning things around, so things could have gone different way as they did maybe yesterday against Wawrinka at same stage,” he said. “But I managed to stay tough. It was, all in all, the best performance of the week, and it came at the right time.»

Ah yes, «could have» except that things didn’t.

In Paris as just about everywhere he’s traveled since his win at the US Open, Djokovic proved that it doesn’t quite matter who else is competing with him. He’s untouchable right now.

Alright alright, maybe these feel and look like just a long set of numbers and it’s just hard to condense them into something that makes sense. Let’s try it again.

The Serb’s 7-0 run at the US Open isn’t included in that tally, because his winning streak has indeed reached all of 22 matches. It’s a run that has pretty much rendered obsolete any notion that his 2015 season isn’t quite up on par with his fabled one from 2011.

It’s actually better.

Sure, maybe Djokovic doesn’t quite have the narrative going for himself this season that he had in 2011 when he crashed the party at the top of the Tour—but even that is wrong. What’s a better narrative than seeing the best player in the world realizing the heights of his power and stating his claim as one of history’s best?

Because that’s what Djokovic is doing. For the fourth time in five years, he will finish the season as the year-end No. 1 player in the world and, with a 78-5 record so far, Djokovic has won just a shade under 94 per cent of his matches. He has 10 titles and will probably make it 11 at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. I know I won’t pick against him.

It’s a sixth Masters 1000 title for the Serb in 2015, a record, and maybe we should get used to it in the foreseeable future. Since the 2014 US Open, he has reached the finals of 14 straight Masters 1000, Tour Finals and Grand Slams that he has participated in; and he emerged victorious in 11 of the 14 events.

That’s quite exceptional, yes.

Oh sure, and how about another tweet?

Among his 78 wins in 2015 are 27 against fellow members of the Top 10, who are supposedly the players most similar as him.

But that’s the lesson: in 2015, Djokovic has no peers.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: 2015 BNP Paribas Masters draw preview and analysis

November 2, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2015 BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.

Well that was quick, wasn’t it?

On February 1, when Novak Djokovic added yet another Australian Open title to his haul, it seemed like we may never reach this point but here we are—the tennis world is in Paris this week for the final Masters 1000 event of the season, then it’s off to London for a few lucky ones, and afterward it’s the offseason.

Are you ready for some tennis? Because, well, soon we’ll have to confront a (two-month) reality without the sport. Meh.

Let’s run through our draw preview.


Main draw

Novak Djokovic should have no real problem navigating through a first section that is high in its number of Frenchman and low in its number of dangerous players. A possible match against Gael Monfils in the third round could prove tricky for the Serb, but Monfils first has to get there. I’ll give the French crowd something to cheer about and predict that it’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who emerges to face, and lose to, Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Since his disappointing summer culminated in a loss in the third round at the US Open, Rafael Nadal has gone on a tear on the ATP World Tour, reaching the China Open final, the Shanghai Rolex Masters semifinal and the Swiss Indoors Basel final. He won none of the three events, but he did qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals—maybe that’s our new normal. Also our new normal? A loss against Roger Federer? Sure, maybe the Swiss beat Nadal indoors and in Switzerland, but he hadn’t won in 21 months.

Hey, speaking of the great gentleman… Roger Federer gets a section that is well within his grasp. Given that he’s already well on his way to London and that he has added a seventh title in Basel, Federer may not try all that hard in Paris—and «not try all that hard» may be good enough for the quarterfinals and more in this section.

Welcome to another Frenchman-laden section, with Richard Gasquet and Jeremy Chardy headlining a group of four hometown heroes. Also in this section? One Andy Murray; hey, remember him? Seems like he hasn’t played in like forever. (He has, but welcome to the Andy Murray experience.)

Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; Rafael Nadal over Feliciano Lopez; Roger Federer over Marin Cilic; Richard Gasquet over Andy Murray

Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Rafael Nadal; Roger Federer over Richard Gasquet

Final: Novak Djokovic over Roger Federer


Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: Previewing the 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals

October 26, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals in Singapore.

Alright, we’re cheating, we know.

The 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals got underway over the weekend, with Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova emerging victorious against Flavia Pennetta and Agnieszka Radwanska. Good for them.

Let’s use this edition of the column to write a preview for the WTA Finals; sure, the event has already started and our predictions are bound to somewhat reflect the above results, but so be it. What’s done is done.

Before we move on to the names of the players and the favourites, let’s mention that the fact that this event is held in Singapore will possibly go down as one of, if not the one, most concrete achievements of ex-WTA Chair Stacey Allaster. Not too shabby. Let’s also mention that Serena Williams has chosen to skip the event, otherwise she would be the overwhelming favourite.

Favourite: Simona Halep

Due to Serena Williams’ absence, Simona Halep is the woman to beat in Singapore as the highest-ranked player at the event. The optimist will point out that Halep has reached the quarterfinals, or better, at 12 of the tournaments she entered; the pessimist will counter that the Romanian, for all her excellence, has only three titles. I’ll slide somewhere in the middle, I guess, and say that Halep will go far, but not win the event.

Actual favourite: Garbine Muguruza

Somehow, 22-year-old Garbine Muguruza is now the No. 3-ranked player on the WTA Tour; where were you at that age? The Spaniard has won the China Open in Beijing just this month, which came on the heels of a loss in the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open final. Muguruza didn’t quite shine over the latter half of the season, but the Asian swing appears to have allowed her to recapture the level that propelled her to the French Open quarterfinals and the Wimbledon final.

Dark horse favourite: Maria Sharapova

Here, we are contractually obligated to mention that Maria Sharapova could excel, because Serena Williams will not stand in her way and beat her at any point this week.

Would-be favourite: Petra Kvitova

This really should be Petra Kvitova’s event to lose, but she hasn’t quite excelled this season. She’s somewhat righted the ship over the hard court season, enough to make the quarterfinals at the US Open. She’s won once and lost twice since. Meh.

Agnieszka Radwanska: Agnieszka Radwanska

Once again, Agnieszka Radwanska stands as one of most regular and busiest players of the Top 10. In 2015, the 27-year-old still forces others to beat her, which happens quite often, sure. It never fazes her one bit, and she keeps coming back, hitting back ball after ball after ball. She’ll do fine in Singapore, or she won’t—and she’ll be back next year.

Lefties: Angelique Kerber, Lucie Safarova

We call them lefties, but they could just as easily be the two who are just happy to be here. Angelique Kerber has enjoyed a stellar 2015 season with three titles—though as has been typical of her, she didn’t quite perform up to par in the four Grand Slams. Lucie Safarova, meanwhile, came out of relative anonymity to take a set off of Serena Williams at the French Open final and almost ruin the calendar Slam before Roberta Vinci did just that at Flushing Meadows.

Retired: Flavia Pennetta

Lest we forget, Flavia Pennetta has already announced her retirement from the WTA Tour after a 16-year career that has included 11 singles titles (i.e. one at the US Open this season), and 17 doubles titles. She’s happy to be here too, because afterward she’s leaving tennis behind.

She can’t lose even if she loses all of her matches at the Finals. We’d do the same if we were in her shoes.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: Novak Djokovic rules in Asia, but who else did well?

October 19, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon reviews the 2015 Shanghai Rolex Masters.

What else can Novak Djokovic do?

After winning a second US Open title at the end of the summer, and the tenth Grand Slam title overall of his career, the Serb has traveled to Asia and run his win streak to 17 matches.

A week after rolling over his competitors of the ATP World Tour at the China Open, Djokovic obliged and did exactly the same thing at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. “Generally I felt always in control of the match. I felt like I’ve done everything right,” he said after his win in the final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. “I’ve won many of my service games very comfortably. I didn’t allow him to get into the rhythm, get into the match. Today’s match, and overall the tournament, it’s gone incredibly well for me.”

There are things to say about Djokovic’s win, that it’s his ninth title of the season or his 25th Masters 1000 title, etc. etc., but we’ll keep the greater context of Djokovic’s win and 2015 season for a later edition of this column. For now, we’ll only mention that the best player in the world has played, and won, 20 sets and that only one went to the tiebreak. The fewest possible number of sets he could have played over the previous two weeks? Twenty.

This Djokovic fella: pretty good!

Meanwhile, the final spots for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are slowly but surely getting picked up. This week, it was Rafael Nadal’s and Tomas Berdych’s turns to book their ticket for London.

Somehow, some way, Nadal has bounced back from a relatively pedestrian season (i.e. quarterfinals at Australian Open and French Open, second round at Wimbledon, third round at the US Open: pedestrian by his standards at least!), to once again make the tour finals. If Nadal has guaranteed his place for London, it’s in part because his 2014 season effectively ended at Wimbledon; he’s had a fairly good season in 2015 and, sure, whatever works. The tour is a better place with a healthy Nadal in it, even if he isn’t at the heights of his powers.

(Plus, due to Roger Federer’s early loss in Shanghai, we didn’t get to confront the possible reality that Nadal may be so diminished that a win against Federer wasn’t automatic, or nearly so.)

Instead, the weird reality that we may have to confront is the fact that Berdych, aka the Mercurial One, may have finally outlived his nickname. He’s the sixth man to book a ticket to London, and he’s ranked No. 5 in the world. He’s a stud and there’s no way around it. Berdych, once so irregular, has won the Shenzhen Open in late September and, save for six events, has been as regular as a metronome: except for the six events, he’s qualified for at least the quarterfinals of every tournament he entered in 2015. It might be time to understand that Berdych, now 30 years old, will be a force every time he plays.

Then again, three of the six events where Berdych underperformed are the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. Mercurial enough for you?

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: 2015 Shanghai Rolex Masters draw preview and analysis

October 12, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2015 Shanghai Rolex Masters.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint—but could it be both at once?

The 2015 tennis season is winding down, with only about a month left to play. It has been, by all accounts a successful one; it didn’t feel shorter, or longer, than any other one and if you look at the ensemble of the 10+ months, it certainly feels like a marathon.

But boy has it also felt like a sprint at times. Every year, the clay court season comes by in a flash, and so does the US Open series after Wimbledon. Likewise, the grass season is just an excuse for tennis to keep playing Wimbledon on the traditional surface—because there aren’t many grass tournaments on Tour.

I’ll venture to say that this current Asian swing is another sprint. Well, we see the finish line to tennis’s Asian adventure. It’s in Shanghai.

Let’s keep our series of draw previews going by looking at the Rolex Masters 1000 tournament. Can Novak Djokovic avenge last year’s defeat at the hands of Roger Federer in the semifinal?


Main draw

The short answer is that yes, Djokovic will avenge last season’s defeat. After winning the China Open in Beijing (for the fourth time in a row and sixth in seven years), the best player in the world still only has five losses in 2015. We thought his 2011 season was great; this one is even better. Let’s have the Canadian Vasek Pospisil as lamb to the slaughter in the quarterfinals here, because why not.

We’re seeing meaningful and good things ahead for the mercurial one Tomas Berdych, which might be silly because it feels like Berdych will always surprise everyone. His bid for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals would be strengthened with a good showing in China and I’ll go on a limb and say that he gets it. He’ll even beat Andy Murray in the quarterfinals, how about that?

In the third quarter, Rafael Nadal will also continue his quest toward London by taking on a few of his countrymen before blitzing past Stanislas Wawrinka, who is already on his way to England and who can afford a loss at this stage of the season.

I’ll pick Roger Federer to emerge from the final section of the draw, in part because I want to see him and Nadal play yet another match in their storied (and, face it, lopsided) rivalry. We all know that Nadal has lost a step or two, but are we ready for a reality where he can’t even beat Federer anymore? Yikes.


Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Vasek Pospisil; Tomas Berdych over Andy Murray; Rafael Nadal over Stanislas Wawrinka; Roger Federer over Kei Nishikori

Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Tomas Berdych; Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer

Final: Novak Djokovic over Rafael Nadal

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: Stacey Allaster steps down as WTA CEO

October 5, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon explains a bizarre story in the world of tennis.

A week ago in this space, I wrote about the weird story of a young man who had awoken from an 11-year coma to find out that his favourite Roger Federer was still a dominant player on the ATP World Tour.

It’s not an especially great column, but we can only make the most of what we have. And what we have, in October in North America, is a whole lot of football and, very soon (i.e. this week? Already? It can’t be), hockey.

In the column, I explained that now is the time to revisit some of the ideas I had shelved for later. Except that this year, the post-US Open period has been rather fruitful for relevant and timely ideas.

For example, the following was announced on September 22.

One of the most powerful women in sports—that’s officially, according to Forbes—Stacey Allaster had been chair and CEO of the WTA Tour from July 2009 until this past Oct. 2, 2015.

As has been hinted, notably in the embedded press release, the 52-year-old Canadian resigned for personal reasons and cited the loss of her brother-in-law and also the death of her ATP World Tour counterpart Brad Drewett. In an exclusive interview with The New York Times, she’s admitted to being not ill but «profoundly weary.»

There’s no doubt that the WTA is losing quite an asset. If she was one of the most powerful women in sports, it’s because under her leadership the Tour has secured one billion dollars in something called «diversified contract revenues,» as the press release states.

There’s no real point in discussing what exactly those revenues include, or don’t include; we’ll just mention that one billion dollars just sounds like a whole lot of money. Under Allaster’s guidance, the association became perhaps the most powerful professional women’s association in the world.

She’s fought for, and obtained equal pay for her players at six WTA events and all four Grand Slams. If that sounds admirable, it’s because it is.

If there’s one thing we do find a little odd, it may be the timing of Allaster’s decision. It comes at the end of September and went into effect at the beginning of October; this means that Allaster was foregoing the rest of her contract, which had been extended until 2017. It also means that she was stepping away before finding a main sponsor for the WTA.

Both are fine.

It also means that the BNP Paribas WTA Tour Finals, from October 25 to November 1 and a huge success in their Singapore debut a year ago, would be played without the WTA chair and CEO who has most been associated with the Tour’s efforts to grow the game in Asia. Though, oh well I guess, the heart knows what the heart needs and if it needs a break then so it is, and so on.

All that being said, you might have thought about something else this past week; there’s the news of Allaster stepping down, yes, but that’s not all. There’s also something called Jello Tennis; click «Play» if you must.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: The never-ending twilight of Roger Federer

September 28, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon explains a bizarre story in the world of tennis.

Every year, the time after the US Open typically coincides with a little down period for the tennis world.

I can only speak of the world that I know, of course: there are a few tournaments on the calendar, but because the end of the US Open typically means the return of American (college) football, then too often tennis fades into the background here in North America.

It’s during this period that writers such as myself tend to get back to the well of ideas and tackle one from earlier in the year that wasn’t entirely relevant or important at the time we had it.

But not this week. Because this past week brought three legitimate good story ideas. We’ll start with the quirkiest of the three and keep the other two for the next two editions of this column.

Legend has it—can we agree to call this a legend, because of how improbable it is?—that on Dec. 12, 2004, 18-year-old Jesus Aparicio was involved in a car crash that was severe enough to leave him in a coma.

Believe it or not, Aparicio apparently stayed in the coma until a month ago, when he awoke on Aug. 27. He slowly regained his speech and—well, that’s about where you’re asking what the hell that has to do with tennis.

The young teenager, see, had become a big fan of Roger Federer; it was in 2004 and the Swiss had just begun his ascent to the top of the tennis world, who could blame Aparicio? Naturally, when the young man woke up from his 11-year coma—again, 11 full years in a coma!—he reportedly asked his family about life, etc., but also tennis and Federer. To his surprise, he was told that Federer, now 34 years old, was still very much excelling at tennis.

When Aparicio (maybe we should simply call him Jesus?) went into a coma, Federer had turned 23 years old and was just getting started, having completed a season when he won three Grand Slam titles to put his total at four. In the years since, the Swiss would build a resume good enough to become, perhaps, the best of all time.

And he’s still excelling in 2015 and at 34, an age where most see a sharp decline in their play; that’s probably the lesson too. That at age 34, Federer defies logic and continues to postpone retirement.

Jesus’s story shows how absurd it is that a man can fall asleep one day in 2004 and only wake up years later in 2015, bypassing the titles of Rafael Nadal and the ascent of Novak Djokovic, to find out that the player he loved is not only still playing but is still thriving.

That’s Roger Federer, folks. Put it another way: a writer from Grantland can ponder the twilight of Federer’s career and its meaning in 2011 and write basically an addendum to this same column four years later after Federer lost in the Wimbledon final against Djokovic.

There is a downside to Jesus’s story of course, and it’s not (strictly) that he was in an 11-year coma. Rather, it’s that his coma forced him to miss out on what he would have loved to see most: Federer dominating and cementing his place in history.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: Where will Novak Djokovic stop?

September 21, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the men’s side of the 2015 US Open.

The question had never really been asked of Novak Djokovic, but it’s started to in earnest after the Serb’s win at this year’s US Open.

Namely, is Djokovic the one destined to become the best player of all time?

Maybe you think it’s preposterous to even entertain the thought. You may be right too, but we’re not the only ones asking the question.

And yet, you persist. You think of Roger Federer, the presumed best player of all time and, certainly, the most gentlemanly champion in the sport’s history. You think of the Swiss’s 17 Grand Slam titles and 87 overall titles, his $94 million won in prize money, his seven Wimbledon titles, his 1,047 career wins on the ATP World Tour or his 237 consecutive, and 302 overall, weeks as the No. 1-ranked player.

And you say that this is just for Federer. You think of Pete Sampras and the 14 Grand Slams that he has, including seven titles at the Great Cathedral of Wimbledon. You think of Bjorn Borg too, who won the French Open six times, Wimbledon five times and then decided to call it a day at the age of 26.

There’s Rafael Nadal too, who’s quite decidedly the best player ever on clay with his nine French Opens and also better than Roger Federer, the perhaps best player of all time who has lost 15 times in the pair’s previous 19 meetings. There’s Nadal, his 67 career titles, his 14 Grand Slams, and his $73 million in prize money.

They are all worthy champions, but so is Djokovic.

The Serb currently sits at 10 Grand Slam titles, 24 Masters 1000 titles, 55 career tournaments won and over $86 million in prize money. His winning percentage of 82.14 stands as the third best in history, trailing only slightly Borg and Nadal.

Of course, Djokovic’s numbers aren’t particularly better than his current counterparts in Federer and Nadal, but asking whether the Serb may be the greatest of all time starts by looking at what’s ahead.

And seemingly, what’s ahead is a whole lot of what’s unfolded over the previous five seasons.

You say that Djokovic, while he isn’t the best player in tennis’s history, may one day become just that. Because in 2015 and at age 28, he still very much is in the prime of his career: he’s currently in the midst of a season that rivals his famed 2011 ascent.

You say that Djokovic may become the best player in history, because as he’s become more and more dominant his two main rivals have faded. Nadal has won only one Grand Slam title since the 2013 US Open and has just completed his worst major performance over a season since 2005. The Spaniard is also 29 and seemingly in the nadir of his illustrious career.

Meanwhile, you say that Federer’s last Grand Slam title has come all the way back in 2012—and though he’s still going and still trying things (e.g. the SABR, or whatever)—the end is near at age 34. Most importantly, he’s had a few draws break the right way for him at majors and basically begging for him to emerge victorious; Federer hasn’t managed.

Then consider that 44 of Djokovic’s 145 career losses, or over 30 per cent of them, have come at the hands of Federer and Nadal. Consider, also, that Djokovic has excelled and amassed all the titles and money he has while playing in the same era as Federer and Nadal.

What happens when the Swiss and the Spaniard leave? Who beats the Serb then, if his prime lasts another two or three seasons?

That’s when it becomes a possibility.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

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