Novak Djokovic is already rated as one of the greatest players of all time and the Serbian superstar has a chance to close the gap on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the 2021 Australian Open.
If the GOAT debate was based solely on Grand Slam wins, Djokovic would be third on the list behind Federer and Nadal, who both have 20 major titles to Djokovic’s 17.
However, Djokovic also boasts other records which should probably be taken into account. The 33-year-old has finished as the year-end number one on six occasions, an Open Era record shared with Pete Sampras that he seems almost certain to claim outright before his career comes to an end.
Djokovic is the only player to have won all of the elite tournaments on the modern men’s professional circuit and is also the only player to have completed a career Golden Masters, winning all nine Masters titles over the course of a career, which he has done twice.
Djokovic is a five-time World Tour Finals winner but the Olympic Gold medal has proven to be elusive, with the Serb’s best result being a bronze medal in 2008. He should get a chance to challenge for the top prize at the Summer Games in Tokyo this year – in what will probably be his last chance to take that title given his age.
Djokovic’s First Successes
Djokovic joined the professional tour in 2003 as a 16-year-old, playing mainly in the lesser Futures and Challenger Tours until 2005 when he scored his first real breakthrough by qualifying for the Australian Open, where he lost in straight sets in the first round to eventual champion Marat Safin.
The Serb did make a mark in the majors in 2005 though as he reached the third round at Wimbledon and then at the US Open, while the following year he made his first appearance in a Grand Slam quarter-final at the French Open.
It was in 2007 when Djokovic really truly announced himself as an elite player when he reached the US Open final. Roger Federer denied the future winner his maiden Slam with a straight sets win in New York, although their meeting was closer than the scoreline suggested as two sets were decided by tie breaks.
Djokovic responded in the next major by taking his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in 2008, as the then 20-year-old ended a run of 11 consecutive majors for Federer and Nadal.
As is often the case, Djokovic’s first Grand Slam win resulted in a lull for the still developing player and in the next 10 major tournaments he reached just one further final – losing in the 2010 US Open to Rafael Nadal.
The following year proved to be hugely successful as he won three of the four majors on offer, claiming another Australian title and his first wins at SW19 and Flushing Meadows. Between 2011 and the end of 2016, he won 11 of the 24 Grand Slams and contested seven further finals as he joined Federer and Nadal as one of the truly dominant forces in tennis.
An elbow injury impacted on his 2017 season as for the first time since 2010 he ended the year without claiming a major title, but he claimed a 13th major title at Wimbledon in 2018 and has won five of the last nine Grand Slam tournaments.
The cancellation of Wimbledon in 2020, where he would have been the two-time defending champion, and his disqualification from last year’s US Open set Djokovic back in his bid to match Federer and Nadal, but he still has to reach 20 Grand Slams, or better.
His next assignment is the Australian Open and that has been comfortably his most successful hunting ground, with Djokovic holding a record eight titles.
Djokovic’s biggest challenges in Melbourne may well come from the next generation of stars and Dominic Thiem, who won his maiden major at last year’s US Open, is a
*All odds correct at time of writing.