Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

MELBOURNE, Australia — There’s an inevitability about Novak Djokovic taking part in tennis at Rod Laver Area.

It is the sensation that no matter what 12 months we’re in, who stands on the opposite facet of the web and simply how lopsided the group assist is likely to be in favor of his opponent, it is nonetheless Djokovic who will prevail.

Djokovic, 35, did simply that on Sunday night for the twenty eighth consecutive time at Melbourne Park. The Serbian dispatched third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) to clinch a file tenth Australian Open title, one that attracts him equal with rival Rafael Nadal for probably the most main titles (22) in males’s tennis — the pair having left longtime chief Roger Federer of their wake with 20.

As Djokovic hugged every member of his gamers’ field, and earlier than he was capable of increase the Norman Brookes Problem Cup, a well-known dialogue started to flow into. Who’s tennis’ GOAT? And whereas it is close to inconceivable to definitively reply this till the Massive Three period has formally drawn to an in depth, there is not any doubt Djokovic’s fortnight Down Below has seen him put his nostril in entrance, as soon as once more.

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Federer has now hung up his racket and Nadal faces one more damage layoff. In the meantime, this is Djokovic, profitable Slams. Earlier within the match, he stated, “I do know I am within the final quarter of my profession,” and whereas that could be correct, his tennis would counsel he isn’t near being completed. In truth, what he showcased over the previous fortnight in Melbourne, all whereas battling a nagging hamstring pressure, isn’t all that far-off from peak-of-his-power Djokovic.

For the third time in his profession, Djokovic dropped only one set alongside his journey to an Australian Open title. He humiliated native hero Alex de Minaur within the fourth spherical, repeated the dose in opposition to fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev within the quarterfinals and cruised by American Tommy Paul in a lopsided semifinal.

Tsitsipas, the world No. 4, was to be his biggest problem, however he handed that take a look at with ease, repeating the results of the 2021 French Open closing. He stored the unforced errors low all whereas battering the ball from behind the baseline and hustling after something Tsitsipas despatched over the web. As all the time, Djokovic discovered an additional gear when the scenario required it. Two tiebreaks? No downside.

“I did every thing attainable. There’s nothing I might have extracted extra. Novak is a participant who pushes you to your limits,” stated a deflated Tsitsipas after the ultimate. “I feel he is the best who has ever held a tennis racket. The numbers communicate for themselves. He has earned it with a lot dedication he is put in and professionalism.”

PAUL CROCK/AFP through Getty Photographs

An distinctive and unparalleled return recreation is what has made Djokovic such a power on the ATP tour for 15 years. At this match, he struck extra return winners than another participant and was the one man to win over 40% of first-serve factors and 60% of second-serve factors when returning.

But it surely might need been his serving that caught the attention most. Djokovic led the sector in service video games received (94%), ranked within the prime 10 for first serve factors received and saved 79% of break factors. He was damaged simply as soon as from 17 video games within the closing.

“It was truthfully a few of the greatest tennis I’ve ever performed on this court docket,” Djokovic declared after the match, referring to his beautiful fortnight at Melbourne Park. “I might rank it proper up there. Perhaps prime two, three of all time of performances on Slams.”

So Djokovic now sits at 22. However regardless of whether or not your allegiances lie with Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, there is not any denying the Serbian’s Slam wins determine might have grown considerably larger over the previous 30 months, if not for the pandemic and a few polarizing private selections.

He missed the chance to defend his Wimbledon title in 2020 when the occasion was canceled as a consequence of COVID-19. Certain, the title was no certainty, however he hasn’t misplaced a match at Wimbledon since 2017.

Two months later, Djokovic was sensationally defaulted from the US Open after putting a linesperson with a ball throughout his fourth-round match. Once more, there is not any assure he would have lifted the silverware, however with numerous his most important rivals sitting out the occasion for numerous causes — notably Nadal and Federer — few have been courageous sufficient to select in opposition to him.

And in 2022, he was unable to compete within the Australian Open or US Open as a result of his COVID-19 vaccination stance would not enable him to legally enter both nation.

Djokovic was or would have been the odds-on favourite in all 4 of these majors. Even taking part in it conservatively, he would have doubtless added at the very least two extra to his complete. Had one in every of them been final 12 months’s Australian Open, he might very simply be sitting on 25 after his most up-to-date triumph, main Nadal’s 21. An insurmountable hole.

WILLIAM WEST/AFP through Getty Photographs

However sufficient of the hypotheticals. The fact is Djokovic and Nadal are locked at 22-22. Even nonetheless, it is benefit, Djokovic.

Djokovic has now received 5 of the previous seven majors he has contested — his two failures coming within the 2021 US Open closing and the 2022 French Open quarterfinals — and by any logical metric he is the undisputed greatest participant on the planet. Heck, we’re not even 18 months faraway from him falling one match in need of the coveted calendar Slam.

In the meantime, Nadal, 36, is about to overlook as much as two months of tennis after struggling a Grade 2 iliopsoas damage throughout his straight-sets loss within the second spherical to American Mackenzie McDonald. However even previous to the damage, the Spaniard was within the midst of maybe the best type stoop of his skilled profession. Some distinguished figures within the sport are doubting he’ll ever return to something near his greatest.

“[Nadal’s loss to McDonald] was already step one in direction of his retirement,” tennis nice Boris Becker stated on Eurosport Germany’s Matchball Becker present. “An damage like that’s onerous, and at this age, it takes even longer to get again into form. I feel his days are numbered.”

Against this, Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanišević believes his man can proceed taking part in at an elite degree for the foreseeable future.

“The best way he is caring for his physique and approaching every thing … two to a few years, for positive,” declared Ivanišević after the ultimate. “The man is unbelievable. I do not know describe it in phrases.”

Novak Djokovic received his tenth Australian Open title on Sunday, probably the most by any participant. EPA/JOEL CARRETT AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Djokovic, too, says he is not eyeing the end line simply but.

“I’m motivated to win as many Slams as attainable,” he stated. “At this stage of my profession, these trophies are the largest motivational issue of why I nonetheless compete. I actually do not wish to cease right here. I haven’t got intention to cease right here.

“I do know that once I’m feeling good bodily, mentally current, I’ve an opportunity to win any Slam in opposition to anyone. After all, 35 isn’t 25, although I wish to consider it’s, however I nonetheless really feel there’s time forward of me. Let’s examine how far I am going.”

Whereas Djokovic is the favourite to finish his profession with probably the most males’s Grand Slam titles, it should not be the one measure used when contemplating tennis’ GOAT.

Djokovic additionally owns the lads’s information for probably the most weeks because the No. 1 participant on the planet (373) and probably the most Masters 1000 titles (38), and he has accrued extra prize cash than anybody else within the sport. He has amassed probably the most ATP Participant of the Yr awards (seven) and is tied with Federer for probably the most ATP Finals wins (six). Consider nearly any males’s tennis file, and Djokovic’s title as a rule is on the prime of the record.

One other issue working in Djokovic’s favor is his profitable file in opposition to each of his nice rivals. He leads the Nadal head-to-head 30-29 and Federer 27-23.

Tennis’ GOAT debate might be argued for years to come back. A long time, most likely. Some will say Federer, some will say Nadal. Others will argue Serena Williams or Margaret Courtroom. But when no person ever strikes a tennis ball once more, you would be hard-pressed to not have Djokovic on the prime of the pile.

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