It can be difficult to quantify such things, but the hype around Novak Djokovic before last month’s Wimbledon seemed to be at an all time low. It must be remembered that for all Djokovic’s injuries woes over the last couple of seasons, the Serb has only missed one, the 2017 US Open. In the seven tournaments he had played since winning the French Open in 2016 and this year’s Wimbledon, Djokovic had reached the Semi Finals of better just once.
Serb favourite at Flushing Meadows
The good news for the Serb is that, according to bookmakers, it will be sooner rather than later. The latest odds at 888sport have Djokovic as the 11/4 favourite to win the US Open, which starts on 27th August. It’s not predicted to be a procession however, with both Nadal and Federer hovering behind at 7/2. Andy Murray, whose injury woes make those of Djokovic pale in comparison, can be found at 10/1.
Indeed, before Wimbledon there was a sense of a procession, a coronation for Roger Federer’s 21st Slam. Of course, not all the media pointed to the Federer win. Many sports journalists and pundits had been taught a harsh lesson about writing off great tennis players, ironically by doubting the longevity of the Swiss master’s elite career over the years.
Tough final weekend for Djokovic
It may be tentative, but there was certainly a sense that Djokovic could have put those injury problems behind him at Wimbledon. The Final against Kevin Anderson was by no means a classic, but it showcased Djokovic’s much-celebrated stamina, coming just hours after an epic semi-final against Rafael Nadal. Rather than thinking about rusty forehands and backhands, it was evident that the Djokovic who rarely looks like breaking into a sweat was, close to, being back.
There is a lot of positivity coming out of the Djokovic camp at the moment, especially refreshing given that he has changed coaching staff a number of times over the last couple of years. There is a feeling, too, that he can start chasing history again. The first number on his mind will be ‘14’ and equaling Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles. Tennis players will say they don’t think about records, but no one could forgive Djokovic for thinking that he could soon have the third best record of all-time in Slams.
It is, of course, not guaranteed that Djokovic triumphs at Flushing Meadows, nor will anybody be rushing to dismiss the chances of Federer or Nadal. But it is almost certain that, if he regains full fitness, Djokovic will reach that 14th Slam. After that, a certain Spaniard is on the list, with 17 Grand Slams. Catching Nadal is certainly a tougher proposition, especially given his record on the clay at Roland Garros. Indeed, it’s easy to forget that there is only an 11-month age gap between Djokovic and Nadal.
In fairness, Djokovic and his team will, for the moment, just be happy the Serb is reaching somewhere near to peak condition again. The history books will be a secondary issue as he concentrates on getting back to the world number one spot and reaching that supreme level of consistency we saw in 2011 and 2015. Is that possible? Few would doubt the steely determination of Djokovic to remind us all again that he has a rightful place among the all-time greats.