By Jürgen Fritz, Sun. Aug 19, 2018
When you ask, who the greatest tennis players of all time were, the names Bill Tilden, Pancho Gonzales, Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal keep coming up. But in the meantime you have to add another one to this group of the biggest of the biggest: Novak Djokovic. He is now facing a triumph tonight, that has never existed before.
Ten years of non-stop on top, then the first major crisis
From 2007 to 2016, he was always among the top three in the world rankings at the end of the year (four times No. 1, twice 2, four times No. 3). No player could do that before him. Then from July 2014 to June 2016, he dominated the tennis scene for two years like no other player before, not even Federer in his heyday from 2004 to 2007, winning eight of the world’s ten biggest tournaments in those 24 months. Unbelievable! We’re talking about Novak Djokovic.
But it was also impressive to see how Djokovic fought back after his first big crisis of his career. From mid-2016, after his first triumph at the French Open, for which he had worked for so many years and repeatedly failed due to Nadal, the greatest sand player of all time, he was visibly out of breath. Now, at 29, he had won almost everything there was to win. For two years he had played continuously on an almost incomprehensible level, for ten years he was always at the forefront. Now the inner hunger was somehow gone. At the end of the year, Boris Becker, who trained the Serb for almost three years and led him to the top, ended his collaboration with Djokovic because he was no longer satisfied with his attitude.
From 2017 the crisis intensified and now his pain in the elbow became more and more noticeable. In mid 2017 he even had to cancel the season completely, finally underwent elbow surgery at some point and tried a comeback from January 2018, which was not easy at the beginning. It was just hailing defeats.
The Djoker comes back
But how Nole fought his way back to the top of the world within a few months was really impressive. That he could win again in Wimbledon in mid-July came as a surprise to me. I wouldn’t have expected him to return to the top of the world so quickly. The Wimbledon semi-final against Nadal, the current No. 1, was perhaps the best game of the season, a match that will go down in history and Nole won in the fifth set 10:8. In the final, he did not give Kevin Anderson the slightest chance of winning and reached his fourth Wimbledon victory.
But now Djokovic is on the brink of another triumph, one that no one has ever achieved before him. He not only won each of the four Grand Slam tournaments, i.e. the A-class tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open) at least once. That alone would be outstanding. In 120 to 140 years of tennis history, only eight players have managed to do this with him:
- 1935: Fred Perry
- 1938: Don Budge
- 1962: Rod Laver
- 1964: Roy Emerson (but without any competition from the professional players who were excluded from the Grand Slams at the time, i.e. without first-class competition; after the tour was opened for the professionals in April 1968, Emerson, who now became a professional himself, never won an A-Tournament again)
- 1999: Andre Agassi
- 2009: Roger Federer
- 2010: Rafael Nadal
- 2016: Novak Dokovic.
Not only did the Serbian win 13 Grand Slam-Titles, he is in 4th place in the eternal list of the best – only Federer (20), Nadal (17) and Sampras (14) have more -, he also won the ATP Finals, the fifth most important tournament (B+), five times (2008 and 2012 – 2015). Nadal, for example, has never won this tournament and here lies even only Federer with 6 titles in front of the Djoker.
Only one big tournament victory is still missing
Beyond all this, the 31-year-old also won all nine of the so-called Masters 1000 tournaments (B-Category) at least once – except for one: Cincinnati. That is, the Serbian won 8 of the 9 B-Tournaments, 13 of the 14 biggest tournaments ever at least once, many even several times, the Australian Open for example six times. Only one great title is still missing from his collection: that of Cincinnati.
Tonight at 10pm CET, Djokovic is in the final for the sixth time in a tournament, he has never won before. And his opponent there is no less than the greatest tennis player of all time, now 37-year-old Roger Federer. Nole has been in the Cincinnati final five times and lost five times: 2008 against Andy Murray, 2009 against Roger Federer, 2011 again against Murray, 2012 again against Federer and 2015 also against Federer.
Today is his sixth attempt to win the last big title, he is still missing, making him the first player in history to win the Golden Masters. It would be his 31st triumph at a B-Tournament, by the way. Here he is already in second place in the eternal list of the best and could move closer to the one year older Nadal, who has so far won 33 B-Titles in his account. The final of Cincinnati starts at 4pm local time (22:00 CET).
All major titles by Djokovic
A. Grand Slam Tournaments
- Australian Open: 6
- French Open (Roland-Garros): 1
- Wimbledon: 4
- US Open: 2
B+. ATP Finals (formerly: ATP World Championship or Masters)
- ATP-Finals: 5
B. Masters 1000 Tournaments
- Indian Wells: 5
- Miami: 6
- Monte Carlo: 2
- Madrid: 2
- Rome: 4
- Canadian Open: 4
- Cincinnati: 0
- Shanghai: 3
- Paris-Bercy: 4
Djokovic reaches for the Golden Masters in Cincinnati
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