98.2 million dollars. 63 singles career titles and counting. 714 singles victories. 28 Masters 1000 titles. 11 Grand Slam Championships. A lead of over 7000 points over No. 2 Andy Murray. five season-ending Masters titles. 167 Top-10 wins.
The numbers, which I thought would stop by 2015, go on and on. Novak Djokovic is at the peak of his powers. And he’s at the highest peak possible; no other male tennis player of this era (including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal) had scaled this peak for so long and so often at their dominant best. The numbers are scary, and he isn’t even 30 yet. Many consider him the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) – a term that has been thrown around way too often since Federer first claimed it in 2004. Twelve years later, after Nadal claimed it for a bit in between, Djokovic is well on his way to actually ‘earning’ this one, despite playing in the same generation – a curse that lesser players like Andy Murray have failed to overcome.
But let’s talk about what is missing. Djokovic, the World No. 1, and the four-time year-end No. 1, is yet to win the French Open despite reaching its final three times. He is yet to win an Olympic Gold medal; he has one Bronze Singles medal from Beijing 2008, and a fourth-place finish in London 2012, where he lost to JM Del Potro in the Bronze playoff.
In 2016, Djokovic has a chance to complete the sweep. The French Open is a month away, and he is looking to avenge the greatest heartbreak of his career (losing to Stan Wawrinka in the 2015 Final). He has just won the Miami and Indian Wells Masters double for the third time in a row, and a fourth time overall. He is now in Monte Carlo, a ‘home’ tournament of sorts, at the beginning of the clay-court season. Soon after Wimbledon 2016, there will be the Rio Olympics – and Djokovic’s final chance to win a gold medal for his country. To suggest that he isn’t favorite would be blasphemy; there is no greater favorite on earth right now to win a medal in his/her respective sport. In 2012, Andy Murray was on a hot streak that lasted six months after losing the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer. In those two years, Murray won all the Grand Slams he has won till today, after which Djokovic duly took over.
I don’t remember the last time Novak Djokovic didn’t reach the final of a tournament he played in. He retired in Dubai this year due to an eye infection, but won titles in Doha, Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami, and is the favorite to sweep all the clay court Masters 1000 titles leading to Paris. Federer is making a comeback after his Australian Open semifinal defeat to Djokovic, and is still recovering from surgery. Murray, who enjoyed the best 2015 clay court season of his career, stands no chance against the Serb. And only Rafael Nadal, who has already suffered some bitter defeats this year, stands a chance of ‘upsetting’ the Serb on the red clay of Paris. If Djokovic wins the French Open, he will have won his 12th Grand Slam title – only two behind Nadal, and five behind Federer. He has won four of the last five Slams, and eight of the last 10 Masters titles. He is the defending champion at Monte Carlo and Rome, and is so far ahead of the pack that even if he stops playing at this very moment, it will take Andy Murray another eight months to overtake his point tally.
Not many fans have liked world domination of any kind for too long in any sport. But many seem to sense that they were part of a very special generation of tennis watchers. Every time they think that they would never see something like Federer or Nadal’s domination and powers again, Djokovic pops up out of nowhere and goes on a streak that would put the best to shame. He has been near the top consistently since 2008.
His ‘God Mode’ is perhaps scarier and more complete than any other male player’s ‘God Mode’ before him, and even though it can get boring to see his name on a trophy almost twice a month, it would take a cynical and weak heart not to admire the kind of standards he has established in the men’s circuit. There is nobody who can defeat him on a tennis court right now. And there could be nobody who can deny him his final destiny – of completing the glaring holes in his trophy cabinet – in 2016. All hail the era of the Serb. Blink and you’ll miss history.