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Djokovic could be the Greatest Tennis Player of All Time

With his recent-record tying sixth Australian Open victory, Novak Djokovic finds himself securely in the pantheon of tennis greats. He now has won 11 grand slam titles since his first in 2008. Last year, he won 3 of the 4 Grand Slam titles. He’s made 5 straight Grand Slam finals. He reached the finals of all eight Masters 1000 tournaments and won a record six of them. But the records don’t stop there: he had a 93.2% match win percentage in 2015, has been undefeated since November 2015, and has a record 16,790 ATP ranking points. He was favored 3-1 odds against the rest of the field going in to the Australian Open. But where does he stand on the list of all-time greats?

The problem with tennis is that the field changes constantly, and the presence or lack of a certain player can alter the balance in rankings tremendously. Therefore, as many pundits agree, the best way to assess this issue is to look at a player’s greatness with one objective measure: Grand Slam titles. The Grand Slam tournaments, the most prestigious titles in the tennis world, are played four times a year. Djokovic has won 11, but trails Roger Federer, the all time record holder, at 17.

I’ll admit, I’ve been slow to warm to Djokovic. When I started to watch tennis, he was more famous for his humorous on-court antics than his ability to win big matches. But he’s earned my respect. He is the most dedicated athlete on tour, with a superhuman force of will. Moreover, he has been adding wonderful variety to his game in the last two years, combining the explosive power of his forehand and backhand with subtle drop shots, crisp volleys, and perfectly-placed serves. Even when matched against the brilliant, artistic shot-making of Roger Federer, Djokovic dismantled him 6 – 1 in 24 minutes because he defends and attacks equally well-an ability that Federer, who is widely considered the greatest of all time, doesn’t have. He’s defeated Federer in 4 straight Grand Slam matches, a feat that no one else has done. He is in a completely different place than the rest of the field.

So is Djokovic the best of all time? Not yet. But ask again in 2018, when 11 more Grand Slams have come and gone? He just might be.


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