When Novak Djokovic won his first grand slam at Melbourne in 2008, nobody thought he would join the league of star players of his generation — Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Federer already had 12 slams then and Nadal was starting to display his uncanny dominance on clay. Despite Novak’s exploits in the Australian Open, 2008 was Nadal’s year. He humiliated Federer in a straight set win (6-1, 6-3, 6-0) at the Roland Garros, dethroned him at Wimbledon, won the Olympic gold and earned the world no. 1 ranking.
Circa 2021, Djokovic (34) is the Centre Court story. Federer lost in the quarterfinals, leaving the stadium with a head full of screaming doubts about his future, and Nadal skipped the tournament to rest his body. Meanwhile, Novak has reached his seventh Wimbledon final, coming very close to totalling his slam tally at 20, joining Federer and Nadal at the top.
The Serbian now faces seventh seed Italian Matteo Berrettini (ATP rank 8) at the Wimbledon final on July 11. They have met twice on the tennis court before, Djokovic winning on both the occasions.
Berrettini has already made history becoming the first Italian to reach the Wimbledon final. If he goes on to win on Sunday, it would be Djokovic’s first loss in a grand slam final to a player other than Nadal or Federer since the 2016 US Open. But with fans and media rooting for the Serb, the Italian has his job cut out.
Matteo Berrettini is making history for 🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/SRdkILvSzE
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) July 9, 2021
What this slam means for Djokovic?
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, often referred to as ‘The Big Three’ in the world of tennis are undoubtedly the three greatest players of all time. When Pete Sampras retired with 14 slams (the highest then), no one in the tennis world expected that three players from the very next generation would pass it.
If Djokovic wins this year’s Wimbledon, 2021 would be one of the most important years of his career. He surpassed Federer’s total weeks as world no. 1 at 310 weeks (Novak currently has 328). He defeated Nadal at the Roland Garros this year, eventually winning his second French Open, making him the only player in the Open Era to have at least won each slam twice. If he wins Wimbledon, he’d have the most slams in tennis history alongside Federer and Nadal.
There has been a hot debate among tennis aficionados on who’s the best among the big three. Sadly, for Fedal fans (Federer and Nadal), if the 34-year-old wins this Wimbledon title, he’d have a significant edge above the other two.
It seems Novak Djokovic is neither playing to win his sixth Wimbledon title nor his record-equaling 20th slam. He has his eyes on a much bigger prize — the honour to be the greatest player of all time.