Novak Djokovic, the World Number One men’s tennis player, firmly established himself as the King of Tennis in 2011, by completing a remarkable sixth victory over Rafael Nadal for the year of 2011 – in the process lifting his third Grand Slam of the year.
Djokovic who has been beaten only by a resurgent Roger Federer in the French Open all year, collected a 3-1 win over Nadal, of whom he appears to have the measure, in a little over four hours at Arthur Ashe Stadium last night 6-2 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-1.
Djokovic traded blows with Nadal from the baseline before finding an impressive array of powerful winners. For once, Nadal’s resilience could not carry him through; his power, too much for all-but-one player on the men’s circuit had, yet again, at the final hurdle, met with an immovable object.
But the tennis was pulsating. The level above that which anyone outside of the ludicrously talented triumverate at the top of the men’s game is capable. As Andy Murray – the next best player in the world outside of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer – indicated following Nadal’s routine victory over the Scot in the Semi-Final, there is something of a gulf in class between these three and the rest of the pack. This Final would not have been as good had it not featured these two players – unless Federer, who had been knocked out in a remarkable five-set turnaround by Djokovic in the penultimate round – was the other player.
Interestingly enough, though, Djokovic seems to be only a hair’s breadth better than Federer, yet he has consistently got the measure of Nadal, as in this final. Federer, for his part, still looks able to beat Djokovic, but his nemesis is Nadal, who humbled him at Rolland Garros.
This being the case, it is perhaps fortunate for Federer that he looks set, at a fairly fixed number three seed, to meet Djokovic in the Semi-Finals as long as he gets there. Providing he can find that illusive third set from four or five, he will be able to make more big finals at the Serb’s expense. You can bet Roger will go back to home practice court in an effort to identify just where those victories might come from.
If there is a worry for fans of tennis, it is that Djokovic could see off both of his major rivals: Federer has a number of years on both the Serb and Nadal; just how long he has the taste for battling these immeasurably impressive players remains to be seen. Nadal, for his part, has had to speed up his points as his potentially unsustainable leg-wearying style of play has had to be made into a longer-term strategy. Trading 30+ strength-sapping rallies with Novak Djokovic, who glides more than powers around the court, on a regular basis might well take its toll on the Spaniard, who has not been without knee worries in recent seasons.
Take his two major rivals out, and there is little to stop Djokovic from becoming the dominant force in men’s tennis.
That being said, the level which Novak Djokovic has now reached is so high for one reason – or rather two reasons – it had to be this high in order to reach, and surpass, the standard set by first Federer, and then Nadal.
But to worry about what might become would be pessimistic in the extreme: the fact of the matter is we have a genuinely enthralling and entertaining prospect at the top of the men’s game right now. This trio of players look like they just might spur each other on to new heights. Certainly some of the points played in the finals of the US Open, Wimbledon, French Open and the Australian Open in 2011 have been exhibition stuff. These men, all with Grand Slams plural under their belts, are now so experienced at this super-high level that they are able to produce another incredible gear when other players would fold.
Djokovic, speaking after his crushing comeback against Federer in the Semi-Final, explained that he felt tennis was very much a mental game. He must be mentally made of iron, and, more importantly, a man clinically incapable of becoming nervous at the big stage. True champions feed off pressure and Djokovic looks like the truest champ in tennis right now.
But, as yet another enjoyable and truly magnificent Grand Slam Final has passed, fans of tennis must simply savour the competition which exists in the sport right now.
Long may it continue.