Monday, July 13, 2015

How High Can Djokovic Climb on the Grand Slam Title List?

With his Wimbledon title Novak Djokovic now has nine grand slam singles titles to his name, and there's no reason to believe he can't add several more to his total.  He'll be the heavy favorite to get his tenth at the US Open, and should have a good chance at further adding to his total in Australia after that.  While it's risky to predict that anyone will win five more grand slam titles, it doesn't seem crazy to think Djokovic could make a run at Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras' total of 14. 

While Djokovic just turned 28, he appears to have at least a few years remaining in which he can rack up multiple grand slams per year.  The rest of the Big Four isn't nearly as much of threat to his slam chances as they used to be, and it's not clear who else is going to stop him.  Federer is nearly 34, and if he didn't beat Djokovic at Wimbledon it's hard to see where he's going to beat him.  Djokovic has solved the Nadal riddle as well, as he dispatched him easily at Roland Garros and has beaten him 6 out of the last 7 times.  He also has been dominant against Murray, having beaten him 8 straight times.  Wawrinka has given him trouble as of late (most notably denying him the career grand slam at the French Open), but Wawrinka is inconsistent and often loses earlier in tournaments. 

It's true things can change quickly in tennis, as a player can be on top of the world one moment and then quickly fall down a few pegs without much warning.  Nadal's decline has been pretty drastic, and he's only one year older than Djokovic.  However, Djokovic isn't showing any signs of slowing down, and it's hard to see his level of play dropping much in the next two years.  

Fortunately for Djokovic, there's not a particularly strong group of younger players ready to knock him off his perch either.  There's simply not many players in the 23-26 age group who look like they're ready to become a serious challenger to the world number one.  Cilic, Nishikori, Raonic and Dimitrov are all very good players, but they're up and down, injury prone and simply not at Djokovic's level.  While there's a more talented group of younger players on their way up (i.e. Kyrgios, Thiem, Coric, Kokkinakis, etc), they're probably a couple years away from hitting their peaks and won't be much of a threat to Djokovic anytime soon. 

Even if Djokovic doesn't age as gracefully as Federer, if he can remain at this level until he's 30 we may be viewing him in an entirely different light at the end of his career.  It always seemed like Djokovic was going to end up in the same conversation with the likes of Agassi, Lendl, Connors, Borg, and a few others who are considered legends but not quite in league with Federer, Sampras, Nadal, Laver and Emerson.  He's still got some work to do, but it looks like he may get a lot closer to joining that latter quintet than many of us thought.          

1 comment:

  1. Great piece Daniel! I hope you're right that Djokovic can get five more. You're totally right about that group from 23-26. Would be shocking if an entire generation gets skipped, but right now it is hard to see any of them winning a grand slam (other than Cilic's US Open). They haven't won a 1000 and only Raonic and Nishikori have reached finals of 1000s. Meanwhile, Kyrgios already has reached the second week of slams many times and Coric is coming up quickly too.

    I think Djokovic has already surpassed Borg and Agassi, but not Connors and Lendl, who both maintained their greatness for much longer and stayed ranked No. 1 for almost just as long as Sampras and Federer. Djokovic has already passed a number of Nadal's accomplishments, but I can't see him ever catching up to Federer. Roger was just too dominant even before Djokovic broke through in 2008. Some of those Federer records from 2003 to 2009 will stand forever.