Has Novak Djokovic’s era of dominance already come to an end?
Novak Djokovic’s passionate supporters are a little Donald Trump-like in their determination to defend their man.
Type in the name Djokovic on Twitter and you will see a stream of his fans trying to claim the mainstream media are out to get their man by promoting an agenda that only they can see.
A little like the ‘Make America Great Again’ tribe that have been supporting Trump in his courtroom drama involving adult movie star Stormy Daniels in New York this week, those who want to believe one agenda will not listen to those promoting other.
The reality is that the tennis media want the best players in the world on the court competing against each other and that explains why their was universal disappointment over Djokovic’s absence from the Indian Wells and Miami Open Masters events last month.
Now there is renewed annoyance that next week’s Monte Carlo Masters will not provide the stage for the eagerly anticipated clash between world No 1 Djokovic and the player dethroned from that position last week, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz.
We won’t get a full picture on who is the true king of tennis until Djokovic and Alcaraz lock horns at least once and even if the Spaniard comes out on top, that will not end the debate for their cheering on Novak.
The truth is sport is not subjective as when you have the blinkers on and are supporting one player or team, everyone else is viewed as the enemy.
Yet the vast majority of the tennis public see the bigger picture and that explains why many are now suggesting Djokovic’s days as the dominant player in the game may already be over.
His immaculate performances winning Wimbledon last summer, the ATP Finals at the end of 2022 and majectic display at the Australian Open in January would suggest he is still the man to beat on the ATP Tour.
Yet the sands of time catch up with every player and with his 36th birthday approaching next month, Djokovic appears to have more threats to his dominance than ever before.
Alcaraz is the obvious contender to take over as the world No 1, yet Italy’s Jannik Sinner has also taken his game to the next level this year.
Daniil Medvedev is back to his very best and has already beaten Djokovic in 2023, while Rafael Nadal should be back in the mix by the time we get to the French Open next month.
Over the last decade and more, the chasing pack have always been a long way behind the game’s ‘Big Three’, with Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer generally coming out on top when the young guns dared to shoot them down.
Now the wannabes seem to be a very different calibre.
In Alcaraz, tennis has a live contender who has already won a Grand Slam title and has beaten Djokovic.
Medvedev is in a similar position, with the winning mentality required to get over the finishing line in a major championship final only attained by those who have a proven record of getting there.
Nick Kyrgois will also be back in the mix to throw his unpredictable big-serves into this narrative and Stefanos Tsitsipas will also be a threat when he recovers from his injury problems.
It means that for the first time in his glorious career, Djokovic has youthful rivals in his midst who have all been world No 1, have won Grand Slam titles and know they can beat him.
Despite what we sometimes hear, and since nobody has proven that he is better than him, @DjokerNole is still the current best player in the world. Period. pic.twitter.com/FASTeHBv5X
— Patrick Mouratoglou (@pmouratoglou) April 5, 2023
This will change the dynamic when the Serbian aims to win his 23rd Grand Slam at the French Open and Wimbledon this summer, with a handful of rivals now entering a battle with Djokovic boasting a more ambitious mindset.
That reality will doubtless motivate Djokovic to continue his dominance for a few years at least, but the tipping point that ends the era of the ‘Big Three’ winning everything in tennis may already have passed.
The next few weeks will tell us whether the old guard still has a few moments of glory left in them.
READ MORE: ATP Rankings: Why Novak Djokovic is a safe bet to remain world No 1 until Roland Garros
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