Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2021 Wimbledon on the men’s side.
Tennis is a war of attrition, and Novak Djokovic is on his way to winning the greatest war of all: that of the best men’s player in ATP World Tour history.
Because in defeating Matteo Berretini 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 and 6-3 in the Wimbledon final, the Serb did much more than add a sixth career title on the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. He just about sealed the deal on the title of best ever. https://bet-colorado.com/ continues to be a great resource into the world of tennis and greats of the game.
Novak Djokovic is the only male player in Open Era history to have won all four Grand Slams in both his 20s and 30s.
— Yousef (@ymanna3) July 11, 2021
The Davis Cup title that launched a dynasty
In catching up to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer with 20 total Grand Slam titles, the 34-year-old Djokovic has completed a monumental task. There’s really no way to exaggerate things here. Consider that 11 years ago just before the launch of the 2011 season, Djokovic grabbed what now can be considered the most important win of his career. Which Grand Slam was it, you ask? Oh no, it was much more critical. In 2010, the Serb led his home country to the Davis Cup title.
What happened next is the stuff of legends.
Djokovic Clutch in 2021 Majors (1/3)
R2: Tiafoe 3-6 7-6 6-7 3-4 30-0
R3: Fritz 6-7 4-6 6-3 6-4 2-3 30-0
R4 vs Raonic: 7-6 4-6 6-1 1-2 0-30
QF vs Zverev: 6-7 6-2 1-4 0-30 & 6-7 6-2 6-4 0-3 15-40 + 5-6 SP(Ace)
SF vs Karatsev: 6-3 5-4 (2 BPs saved)
F: Meddy 5-7 1-0 30-15
— Vansh! (@vanshv2k) July 14, 2021
The Mount Everest climb
Armed with a Davis Cup title, and with a lone Australian Open title to his name, Djokovic started his ascent and assault on men’s tennis. Ahead of him stood Federer and his 16 Grand Slam titles, and Nadal and his nine Grand Slam titles. Both players had also completed the career Grand Slam. Whatever the tennis equivalent to climbing Mount Everest was, this was what Djokovic had to contend with.
The Serb basically decided to stop losing, starting 2011 on a 41-match unbeaten streak. He would eventually cool off, but only a bit: he blitzed through the 2011 season, winning 10 total titles, including three majors. Suddenly, the race to the top was on. What followed and unfolded over the next 10 years is one of the most dominant decades we’ve ever seen in all sports.
And this month, Djokovic completed the chase. Suddenly, he’s levelled with both of his rivals and has all of the momentum in the world. It was pretty much the only thing left for him to catch them on. Everywhere else, Djokovic has already lapped the competition. Over the next month or so, he’ll be going for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics title, as well as the US Open title; this would give him a Golden calendar year Grand Slam. And if that sounds like a big deal, it’s because it definitely is.
So where does that leave him?
Well, that leaves Djokovic fans exactly where they wish they were. Their favourite is the clear-cut favourite every time he steps on the tennis courts. And it turns out that Mount Everest was the last, biggest hill left for Djokovic in his quest for tennis immortality.
Because as we mentioned in the above, this is another rabbit the Serb can pull out of his hat (or whatever is the actual idiom here?) and which favours him as the best ATP professional of all time. Let’s run down the list here, shall we?
The greatest serve returner ever, Djokovic now ranks first in history for total prize money won, Grand Slam titles won (tied with Nadal and Federer), Masters 1000 titles (tied with Nadal), the number of Australian Open titles, for total weeks spent at World No. 1 and year-end No. 1 (tied with Pete Sampras). He is also the only man in the Open Era to have won four Grand Slams in a row (over two seasons), could become the first in the Open Era to complete the Grand Slam in a single year, and also to have won every single big event on tour at least once (i.e. he’s done it twice). He’s given the king of clay two of his three career losses at the French Open. Not only that, but Djokovic has the highest career winning percentage, the head-to-head edge against both Nadal and Federer and he’s consistently had to work harder for his major titles.
Djokovic is the one true goat of men’s tennis
Things can and will change quickly of course. But where things are today, Djokovic stands above the rest. Proponents of Team Rafa and Team Roger have had to retort to nonsense, BS arguments to prop their favourite.
Richard Gasquet: “I like Djokovic, but for me it’s not about the GS titles. I see the aesthetics. Federer is unimaginable and irreplaceable, he is the GOAT” (Via L’Equipe)
— Luigi Gatto (@gigicat7_) July 13, 2021
Agassi: “Federer is really the world-class, all-around player. The day I played him, I realised I was playing the greatest player of all time. When he was at his prime, he might have had at least five things better than anyone.”
— Luigi Gatto (@gigicat7_) July 18, 2021
This is pathetic, come on. Your feeling may be that Nadal or Federer are your favourite, but that doesn’t mean that they’re the best ever. Because the facts say otherwise, and facts will always trump feelings in these arguments.
But if you insist, we can also get on our soap box and yell out rhetoricals. For example, we’ll say that Djokovic isn’t the greatest of all time merely because of all the facts stated above. No, the Serb is the best ever because he is the most clutch player of all time. (Just ask Federer at 2019 Wimbledon.)
Roland Garros (2/3)
R4 vs Musetti: 6-7 6-7
QF: Berrettini 3-6 2-6 7-6 5-6 40-30
SF vs Nadal: 3-6 6-3 5-6 AD-out (Set Point saved with a drop shot) & was also down 0-2 in 4th set
F: Tsitsipas 7-6 6-2 1-2 40-15
— Vansh! (@vanshv2k) July 14, 2021
We wholeheartedly believe that, of course. We’ve never seen someone live in the moment quite like Djokovic has managed to do over the past 10+ years. He is seemingly wired to make the absolute most of every single mini-moment that makes up a tennis match. Djokovic finds a way to elevate his level when the stakes are highest, you can bet your life on it. In his mind, he’ll find a way where you won’t; more often than not, he’s right. Plenty of folks have been hailed as clutch, but no one has ever shown it as well and repeatedly as Djokovic has. And that’s why he’s the greatest of all time.
Oh look, ol’ Roger has something to say.
Congrats Novak on your 20th major. I’m proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done!
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) July 11, 2021
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG