Comment: We are entering a new era in tennis…. where Novak Djokovic will be crowned the greatest
The next generation came knocking and once again, the old guard refused to grant them entry.
After 12 months when very little has made sense on too many levels around the world, it felt like tennis was ready for a new era as Daniil Medvedev appeared to offer a credible threat to Novak Djokovic’s relentless dominance of the Australian Open, but the old order will remain in place for now.
In fact, the manner of the Serbian’s 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over his Russian rival on a Rod Laver Arena he has long since called his own suggests we are about to enter a whole new era of tennis history – and it will involve Djokovic cementing himself as the greatest the game has ever seen.
As he collected his 18th major title in brutally brilliant fashion, we were reminded of the mountain the chasing pack will need to climb to knock the king of the castle off the peak.
Medvedev’s 20-game unbeaten streak fuelled his belief that he could take on Djokovic in what promised tone a slugfest for the ages in Melbourne, but the truth is the young pups are still no match for the true great when he is at his best.
Whatever you might think about Djokovic’s ‘injury’ that appeared to heal miraculously mid-way through this tournament, Novak’s brilliance in the final chapter of a strange and compelling Australian Open confirmed the next few years of the game could belong to him.
He now looks certain to sail past Roger Federer’s haul of 20 Grand Slam titles and would be strongly fancied to end up with more than Rafael Nadal, who is also currently on the mark of 20 in the race to claim the greatest record in men’s tennis.
With Djokovic set to beat Federer’s record for most weeks at No 1 next month on the back of this win and his eyes bulging at the prospect of more glory at Wimbledon later this year, the Serbian could conceivably finish this year with that golden mark of 20 major titles next to his name.
At that point, it will all be about building his legacy and given the events that unfolded in his ninth Australian Open final, it looks like he may be untouchable for some time to come.
“It was an unbelievable performance,” declared former world No 1 Mats Wilander, speaking in his role as a Eurosport pundit.
“Djokovic got the dream start, going up 3-0 straight away and then Medvedev came back somehow and you thought maybe this is going to turn into a tough match. But then he just played better and better and better. A little bit of a hiccup early in the second set. He is so solid, and he wins points in so many different ways today.
“That’s a huge statement to them, to us, to the whole world. Novak is just so complete these days, he can hit those little drop shots, he can come to the net, he’a got choices. Medvedev clearly needs to improve the variety of his shots.”
When asked about the race to the top of the Grand Slam charts, Wilander added: “When you watch Novak play at the Australian Open, it looks as difficult to beat him here as it does to beat Rafa Nadal at Roland-Garros. It shouldn’t be because it’s a faster court, it should be much more difficult but he looks so solid, so confident and once he gets into the lead I don’t know what you have to do.
“It’s amazing how Novak Djokovic has claimed the Australian Open as his home Slam, Rafa has Roland-Garros as his home Slam, and Roger Federer as his home. So it’s amazing how they all dominate in their own ‘living rooms’.
“It was disappointing for Novak Djokovic at the US Open, but it’s starting again with Rafa winning Roland-Garros on 20, now Novak on 18 – now we start thinking Novak is most probably the favourite to win the US Open because it’s hard court. Wimbledon? Maybe he’s the favourite. At the end of this year who knows who’s going to be in the lead.”
The tennis world waited and wondered whether we were about to witness the dawn of a new era in tennis at the start of 2021.
Instead, we should prepare ourselves for the era that sees Novak Djokovic’s coronation as the king of the court.
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