Thursday 26 September 2013
This week the world No.1 celebrates not only his engagement, but his 100th week at the top of the ATP rankings. But Wimbledon.com wonders if the achievements of others mean that he won't get the credit he deserves this season...
Consider this over a mug of liquorice tea: it has been a decent season for Novak Djokovic - this Monday came the confirmation that he had spent a total of 100 weeks as the world No.1 - but he is unlikely to receive the recognition that his year deserves. And that's because of Rafael Nadal. As well as Andy Murray. And Roger Federer, too. It would be going too far to suggest that Djokovic is both the world No.1 and the forgotten man of tennis, but there is no doubt that his achievements haven't been celebrated as much as they should have been.
That's unfortunate for Djokovic, who could still end a third successive year at the top of the rankings, which is no small feat in this golden age of men's tennis.
True, Djokovic's year hasn't touched the heights of his 2011 season, when he won three Grand Slams, but it was never going to. And few players would have many complaints about the season he is putting together. Djokovic's victory at the Australian Open brought him a sixth major title, putting him level with Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg. And at the subsequent three majors, he troubled the eventual champion, losing to Nadal in the semi-final at Roland Garros, to Murray in the Wimbledon final, and then to Nadal on the third Monday of the US Open. And there was no doubting the significance as Djokovic moved into triple figures for weeks spent at the top of the rankings. As the ATP's party at New York City's Waldorf Astoria demonstrated on the eve of the US Open, holding that office is very special, and now only eight players have spent more time than the Serbian as the world No.1: Federer, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Nadal and Andre Agassi.
Those last two are only just ahead of Djokovic, with Agassi on 101 weeks and Nadal on 102.
Still, Djokovic hasn't had the attention that the other three members of the big four have had this season. Djokovic has been continually upstaged. Nadal, though he lost in the opening round of The Championships, has had an astonishing comeback, including becoming the first man to win the same Slam eight times, with his victory at Roland Garros. His triumph in New York, which took his Grand Slam collection to 13, had many in tennis wondering whether the Majorcan will eventually equal and then pass Federer's portfolio of 17. Murray, whose victory over Djokovic on Wimbledon's Centre Court made him Britain's first male SW19 champion wearing shorts, has hardly had a quiet year. And Federer has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, after losing early at the last two Slams, in London and New York, leading to speculation about his future. How could Djokovic have possibly competed in a year when Nadal achieved the greatest comeback in the history of men's tennis, when Murray did something which hadn't happened for 77 years, and when Federer had his most disappointing season for a decade?
Djokovic is highly unlikely to end the year at the top of the rankings. Indeed, if he does not retain his title at the China Open in Beijing next week, he will be replaced by Nadal, who does not have any ranking points to defend for the rest of the year. Perhaps it requires Djokovic finishing the season in style, by winning the ATP World Tour Finals in November, for the tennis world to fully appreciate the 26-year-old from Serbia?
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