Novak Djokovic: A Worthy Number One, For Now
Novak Djokovic’s victory over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon only reinforced his new-found position as world number one. However, Djokovic must know that while it takes a great player to reach that peak, it takes an even better one to retain it.
Before the Wimbledon final had even started it was announced that, regardless of victor, Novak Djokovic would overtake Rafael Nadal to the perch at the top of the ATP rankings table. There’s always reason to be sceptical over these rankings and their subsequent seeding – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan-Martin Del Potro, who both played brilliant tournaments at Wimbledon that they can be proud of, are still ranked a handful of places below Andy Roddick, eliminated in the third round and enduring a pretty lacklustre year, shoulder injury permitted.
But had Nadal swept away Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, scepticism would have only been further reinforced. Two Grand Slam titles in a year and your reward is a demotion? So goes the crazy world of sports statistics; sometimes it’s best not to read into them too much.
That is not to take anything away from Novak Djokovic, however. The Serb was majestic en route to snatching his first Wimbledon title, his first ever title on grass court. In fact, Djokovic has been majestic the entire year, losing just one solitary match in all 2011; the French Open semi-final to Roger Federer. There is no shame in losing to one of the best players of all time, so we’ll forgive you for that one, Novak.
However, going into the final with a record of 49 wins in 50 matches and four victories against Nadal already this year, Djokovic was riding the crest of a wave of confidence into this final. The Serb took the first two sets, 6-4, 6-1, in just over an hour, making just two unforced errors in the process. This might well have been the best tennis the 24-year-old has yet produced in his career. The power emanating from his base-line shots, a flawless volley game at the net and a robust return of serve – whatever Nadal threw at Djokovic, he provided an answer for.
A lapse in the third set by the Serb, which he quickly seemed to give up in a bid to spare his energy, was followed by lapse on Nadal’s behalf towards the end of fourth. Nadal was broken at 3-4, after a double fault and two unforced errors. From that moment on, you could see Djokovic putting together a list of ‘Thank you’s in his head.
And as Nadal hit his final backhand long behind the baseline, Djokovic collapsed to the ground in joy. He said that his childhood dreams were to become the world number one and win the prestigious Wimbledon title. In the space of 24 hours he had achieved both. He then ripped a piece of grass off the court and placed it in his mouth. Victory had surely never tasted so sweet.
Djokovic’s position at the top clearly spells out that he is now the man to beat, which injects a huge surge of relief into the tennis world, after a seven-and-a-half year hegemony of Federer and Nadal sharing the top position between themselves. How long he will stay at the zenith, however, remains to be seen, of course. Djokovic doesn’t yet those all-conquering characteristics and style of play that many great number ones displayed in their heyday, but these achievements are certainly there to be grasped. How he does at the US Open in September will be very interesting, now that all eyes will be on him.
For the meantime, however, Belgrade can rejoice in their champion; a slightly more unconventional champion than the tennis world is used to. One that, as well as looking good on the court, would also look great on the comedy circuit, on Dancing With the Stars and on the soccer pitch. A man of many talents now resides over the pinnacle of the tennis world, and I bet I can point out which song they will be playing during his celebrations, too.
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