The fans at the US Open will never embrace Novak Djokovic, but why should he care? He’s beating Roger Federer when it matters and now, with 10 grand slam titles and seven to go before he catches up the all-time leader, there shouldn’t be anything that brings him down or holds him back.
Federer is still a special player, the second best in the world. But he’s not capable of beating Djokovic in a best of five match unless something very special happens, and that’s Djokovic having an awful day. Even after bouncing back from losing the first set, Federer doesn’t have the energy and fitness anymore to pull off a second momentum swing. Djokovic does that better than anyone on tour, and maybe better than anyone ever. It took him awhile to get to this level of dominance, but he’s not letting it go anytime soon.
Djokovic had a special year. Winning three grand slam titles out of four. That’s the second time he’s done that, one more than Rafael Nadal, and also lost in the final of the Roland Garros, making 16 of the last 21 Grand Slam finals. He’s 28, but there are no young players changing the course of history on tour right now. It’s an “old man’s” game right now, and none of the other players in the top 10, except for Stanislas Wawrinka on certain days and Federer in best-of-three matches seem to be capable of slowing down Djokovic at this point.
The big question – how long does this last? As Rafael Nadal started eating away at the lead Federer had on him in career grand slam titles, it felt as if there’s a chance he’d make it. Federer hasn’t won a Slam since 2012, and at 34, the end has to be coming at some point, right? Maybe it isn’t, but while Djokovic is around, playing this kind of tennis, keeping this kind of form, it’s hard to see Federer getting past him ever again in a best-of-five match.
Nadal seems broken down. Even his dictatorship at the French Open is over, and maybe never to return. He simply doesn’t have the speed and the power he’s been able to conjure even on bad years when he reached Paris. He’s the best clay court player of all-time, but it seems over for him, this time for good. But Djokovic? He’s 28, playing the best tennis of his life, is fitter than anyone else on tour, and with no real consistent threat on his number one spot from anyone his age or younger. Winning three slams in one year is difficult to do, but Djokovic has done it twice, and unless his body starts breaking down, there’s no one good enough to stop him right now.
If Djokovic catches up with Federer, is he the best player ever? Well, if Federer is considered as the best player of all-time based on the fact that he has more Grand Slam titles than anyone else, Djokovic will be held to the same standard, even if he’s never going to be as popular as Federer. As another Grand Slam final between the two just showed, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by being the villain as far as the crowd is concerned.