There’s very little argument about the fact that Novak Djokovic is the best tennis player in the world. His win over Roger Federer to claim the Indian Wells Masters title for a fourth time in his career just made the gulf between him and the rest of the field even greater.
It was title number 50 for Djokovic, defending his Indian Wells triumph from last year. The rival was the same that day, and it also took Djokovic three sets to pull through. It’s not a surprise to see Federer fade away in the third and final set. Physically, it’s more and more difficult for him to keep up, and Djokovic’s style is punishing, unforgiving, relentless.
The question regarding Djokovic is no longer about whether or not he’s the best player right now. He’s been the best for most of the past three or four years, except for minor setbacks. From now on, his battle is against history. Federer leads the all-time list of Grand Slam titles. Rafael Nadal isn’t too far behind, but going by recent events, it’s going to take him a lot of Roland Garros titles to somehow change the name at the top. Federer isn’t disappearing either, although it’s been almost three years since his last Major championship.
Djokovic, with his eight Grand Slam titles, winning his fifth Australian Open this year, is now heading into a different kind of struggle, and that is dominating enough to impress on a historic level. The Big Four are still with us, but Djokovic seems to be the only one remaining as a major force in the Tennis world. Federer is hard to put a finger on because of his age and his tendency to have severe drops for long stretched during the season. Nadal doesn’t look good, and Andy Murray is hard to put in a category as well.
There are challengers. Stanislas Wawrinka might not be young, but he’s probably more than just a one-year wonder. Milos Raonic is moving up and fast, now sixth in the world. Djokovic, when he’s good, looks nothing like the fragile player we saw in some tournaments last season. But so far, his dominance and superiority over the rest of the ATP tour has really been brought to light in more than one Grand Slam just once.
Part of the reason that Federer is considered so great isn’t just his style and number of titles. It’s that he has three years of winning three Grand Slam titles in each. Nadal has just one season like that. So does Djokovic. The Australian Open is also the only major he’s back to back (2011-2013). He needs to finally win the Roland Garros, losing twice in the final there.
Mark a nice little “check” next to all that, and he can move from being the best player during the last few years into the discussion of being considered the best of all-time.