One for the ages

Alongside Federer and Nadal, Djokovic is ensuring tennis is at its competitive best
No player in the last decade has so thrillingly disrupted the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal binary quite like World No.1 Novak Djokovic. Back in 2008, when Federer and Nadal met at Wimbledon in that iconic final, the contest had a definitive feel to it — to crown that era’s best. The two met again this year, eleven summers since, just to earn the right to challenge Djokovic. Such has been the Serb’s excellence that in the time between the two Federer-Nadal meetings, he increased his Grand Slam count from one to 15. Sunday’s pulsating five-set victory over Federer brought him his fifth Wimbledon to put him just two shy of Nadal (18) and four behind Federer (20) in the all-time list. At times, his on-court demeanour and his grinding style of tennis have detracted from the perception of his success. To not celebrate his greatness, however, would be a severe disservice. Nadal and Federer are still ranked two and three in the world and are playing at near-peak levels. But even at their best, Djokovic has left them short of breath. In fact, starting from the 2011 Australian Open — his second Major — Djokovic has triumphed at nearly every second slam he has entered (15 of 34). Federer in the same period has accumulated four and Nadal nine, of which seven have come at the French Open. Remarkably, Djokovic has vanquished either Federer or Nadal in 12 of the 16 slams he has won. Eight of those victories have come in finals. When he started out, Djokovic was among the most emotionally fragile. Questions abounded as recently as last July when he slipped outside the top-20. But by securing four of the past five Majors, he has truly rediscovered the mind of a champion. Among women, it was the turn of Simona Halep to display similar powers, by adding Wimbledon to her 2018 French Open win. There was a feeling that following her breakthrough in Paris she had suffered a meltdown, as she had not progressed beyond the quarter-finals at any Major since then. However, the way she mowed down one formidable opponent after another at SW19, including the legendary Serena Williams in the final for the loss of just four games, was enough proof of her strong mental make-up.

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