Saturday, July 6, 2013

Novak Djokovic: How Great is He?

Tomorrow morning Novak Djokovic takes on Andy Murray in an attempt to take his seventh career major title in the world of tennis. If you ask the casual sport fan who are the top men's tennis players currently in the world, Novak would likely be third or fourth (behind Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and possibly Andy Murray and that's also hoping that people don't think Andy Roddick still plays or that he was ever really any good). Since the start of 2011, no men's tennis player has been better than Novak and he has certainly earned being #1 in the world.

Since Wimbledon in 2010 Novak has reached at least the semifinals in each major event (13 in a row), 9 of those being finals appearances (counting tomorrow's match), and he has won 5 majors in that span, quite possibly making it six sometime Sunday. To compare to the other greats today, Roger Federer's best saw him go a 23 major span where he reached the semifinals, 20 of those saw him reach the finals, and 14 were major victories. Nadal's greatest streak of semifinal appearances is 5 and he has done that twice. Nadal has won eight French Open, and is the "King of Clay" but his case helps prove how unique of a player Novak Djokovic is, as he has shown the ability to be successful regardless of the surface. Djokovic will likely never reach the greatness of Roger Federer, but when you breakdown what he's done over the course of these last three years, his performance is only trumped by the greatest to ever swing a racquet.

So where does Novak Djokovic stand in terms of the all-time greats? We've already discussed Roger Federer, who leads all-time with 17 major victories, and Rafael Nadal, who has twelve to his credit, tied with Roy Emerson for third most all-time. Pete Sampras, who is 2nd all -time with 14 major titles, never had a stretch of more than three semifinal appearances in a row, and Pete's career is more defined by longevity (won majors of 13 year span) and his dominance at Wimbledon (won 7 out 8 years). If Novak wins tomorrow he'll notch his 7th career major title and that'll place him in a tie for 13th all-time (most notably with John McEnroe). If he was done tomorrow, I think he would be remember as dominant during a short stretch and he was the third wheel of this generation. For a player who is entering the prime of his career and is seeing issues with some of the other stars (Federer - age, Nadal - injuries), the stage is set for Novak to continue this pace for the next four years comfortably. One major victory in each of those four years would place him in the top 5 of major winners all-time (I think that'll be easily achievable), and it's realistic for Novak to set his sights on Nadal and Sampras's marks. I would be amazed if he ever reaches the standards set by Roger, and when all is said and done, I feel Novak Djokovic will be one of the five best men's tennis players ever.

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