After a scintillating past year, which has seen him finish the campaign as the world’s best player by a comfortbale margin, Novak Djokovic is beginning to become a great of the game. With plenty of years on his side and plenty of grand slam titles in the bag, he is reaching is peek and the sky should be the limit for the Serb. However one feel if he is to genuinely go down as a legend there is one further aspect he needs -a big rival!
It would seem the great players aren’t just known for all the titles they won but they are mainly remembered for the great rivalries they had with other top players in that particular time period. McEnroe v Conners, Agassi v Sampras, Evert v Navratilova and Federer v Nadal. Those players will all be remembered as greats of the game, but they will mainly be talked about for all the memorable duals they had with their closest rival. Not only is a rival great for the spectators but they are also great for the players involved. They push each other to play at a higher level and to perform far better than they would have done, had they been unopposed. The before mentioned names would have no doubt practised more and had to concentrate as well as improve at a faster rate to keep up with their great challenger. Success can be judged on competition and the more of it you face the higher your triumphs are ranked!
Furthermore in Djokovic’s case, he has risen to prominance just as the Federer v Nadal monoploly has begun to be broken up. This will create questions such as how would he have fared a few years ago? Others will say that for the majority of the Serbian’s time at the top, Murray has been playing very well whilst Federer and Nadal have remained ominous threats at grand slams. However Murray has certainly not been playing like a great in recent times and the legendary Swiss and Spanish men have been somewhat plagued by old age and injuries – leaving them far from the force they were. If you look back in time, previous players have faced far tougher obstacles to win majors than Djokovic now has. He has somehwat of an opening.
Although there is no doubting just how well Djokovic has been playing and that can’t be taken away from him. One of the reasons he’s so far ahead of the rest is due to his consistently outstanding perfromances, which have left the competition lagging behind. At times his defence is so good, it looks unbreakable. Also on the rival front, with the fast emergence of young players such as Dimitrov, Nishikori and Raonic – he will soon have plenty of fresh, world class challengers. Furthermore Andy Murray will hopefully get back to his best soon after injury problems and return to the form which saw him really challenge Novak in a fantastic 2013.
In fact the Scot’s demise from the top stage has been one of the main reasons why Djokovic has had such a considerably easier ride than his predecessors. Ever since they were young players they had been touted as future rivals for many years to come and whilst they waited patiently to catch up with Federer and Nadal, they progressed well alongside each other. As they started becoming more and more prominant on the world scene, their fantastic matches began to gain more recognition. It’s fair to say that the Serbian came of age earlier, winning grand slam titles and becoming world number one, well before the Brit. However in the latter stages of 2012 and in 2013 the rivalry finally blossomed as Murray beat Djokovic in a pulsating US Open final before Novak got his revenge in the Australian open final. They were now the 2 best players in the world and Murray appeared to have marginely over taken him after his Wimbledon victory. At this point it seemed as if this dual was to last for years and become the new great rivalry. However injury problems for Murray and improved perfromances from Djokovic, have pushed him well ahead once more. With the Scot failing to beat him since that Wimbledon final. As things stand it is a very one-sided rivalry and you wonder whether Murray has it in him to make it highly competitive once more.
Djokovic’s achievements should not be downgraded or blemished though. He has faced highly talented fields for the past few years and has generally dominated world tennis. A rival would be great but winning more and more grand slam titles will continue to put him up there as a great of the game. However graet rivalries are usually associated with great players and you feel he needs one if he is to finish his career with every question mark ticked off. That and a so far elusive French open title that is!