Does tennis still consist of The Big Four or just The Big ONE?
“Everyone is competitive, everyone is fit and everybody plays great forehands and backhands, but tennis is a mental game”- Novak Djokovic.
This quote, perhaps more than others, best describes Novak Djokovic . This year was his best since his remarkable run in 2011. In terms of Grand Slam titles he achieved pretty much the same record as he did in 2011, i.e he won the Australian Open, U.S Open and the Wimbledon championships. He crashed out of that season’s Roland Garros (The French Open) in the semi-final, where he was simply out-played by a very good Roger Federer. But one has to look past the results of the recently concluded season to see just how much Djokovic has progressed. The level of tennis he played throughout the year was simply mind-blowing. He was in such top form that even when he did lose,(which was a rarity in itself) there was a feeling that it wasn’t because his opponent had dominated and outplayed him, but rather because he wasn’t able to re-create his incredible level of tennis that he usually displayed on the court. The traditional rivals, or, the ‘top dogs’ of the sport aka ‘The Big Four’ , i.e Djokovic, Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal were gradually losing their grip on tennises top prizes. When I say that the big four are losing their grip, I mean that three of the four are falling behind (I don’t need to mention the fella who isn’t do I?).
Because Novak Djokovic has taken his Tennis to another level, it has also forced his rivals to up their game as well. The biggest weapon that Djokovic has in his locker is his mental strength. This mental strength complements his physical abilities brilliantly. There are times when he may appear to be down and out, but he always finds a way to drag himself over the finish line. All he needs is one chance, which is what makes him such a difficult player to face on court.
Past results very rarely affects Novak’s mindset. He starts every season with a clean slate. A new season is full of new opportunities, and this season nobody grabbed those chances quite like Djokovic had. His overall win-loss record of 82-6 is proof of that. The finals of Grand Slams are extremely high pressure occasions, this is where he produced his best tennis. Even though he lost the French Open final, he fought so hard that it took a superhuman effort from Stan Wawrinka to defeat him. I’m not sure whether even Wawrinka would be able to perform at that level again. The score card might show that the Swiss comfortably beat the Serb in just four sets, but it was nowhere near as easy as it looked. Wawrinka needed every bit of energy to upset Novak, and in the end he deservedly won, and handed Novak Djokovic his only loss in a ‘Major’ this season.
When asked as to how he would cope after losing the French open, he jokingly said that he would go ahead and win Wimbledon, and he did just that! Somebody needs to tell him the difference between a joke and reality! Djokovic really kicked into gear from the U.S Open onwards. He won 26 of the 27 matches that he had played in. The lone loss coming in the group phase of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals to Roger Federer. Novak however got his revenge a few days later by defeating the Swiss Legend in the tournament’s final to lift the final trophy of the season.
Djokovic won ELEVEN titles this season and is the number one player in the world by a HUGE margin. He has almost double the points compared to world no: 2, Andy Murray (16,585 to 8,670). Of the last 20 Grand Slams, Novak Djokovic has won 9 and has appeared on the losing side of a final 6 times. He’s been involved in 15 of the last 20 Major finals! 9 out of his 10 Grand Slam titles have arrived in between 2011 and 2015. That is truly staggering.
“I think luck falls not just on the brave, but also on the ones who believe that they belong there”-Novak Djokovic.
The other major quality that Djokovic has is incredible self-belief. When he won his first Wimbledon there were many times in the final where Nadal could’ve nicked it and walked away with the title, but the Djoker held his nerve and ultimately pulled through. He did not let the fact that the crowd cheered louder for Nadal play on his mind. He was uninfluenced and was a symbol of concentration and determination.
Most of us tennis fans have watched Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dominate over the years, then suddenly this lanky, skinny-looking Serbian enters the picture and absolutely destroys his competition. It was hard to take for tennis fans who loved Federer and Nadal and the traditional rivalry that came with it.
In the current generation of tennis superstars, Djokovic has no equal. We’ve always had great rivalries like ‘Federer vs Sampras’ or ‘Federer vs Nadal’, so the fact that Djokovic has no particular rival is probably the best way to show his dominance. He is in a league of his own.
For me the 2016 season is one of the most eagerly anticipated seasons in recent times, not just because I want to see how much his three main rivals will improve ( they will HAVE to improve if they are to stand a chance against Novak), but mainly to see how much MORE Novak Djokovic himself will push forward.
Rather than Novak ‘Djoker’ Djokovic it would be his rivals who face him that would go around town sayin “You wanna know how I got these scars? From Djokovic….. “. If he plays anywhere near the level of tennis he has shown in recent years, then the Big Four might become history and it could announce the start of a new era….
The Djoker’s Era. MUWAHAHAHA!
Facebook: Arjun Sridhar