Wimbledon 2015

Novak holds court without fail

If there is a "weakness" to Novak Djokovic's game, it is that he has not won over the crowd in the same way as Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal has. But he hopes to rectify that situation.
If there is a "weakness" to Novak Djokovic's game, it is that he has not won over the crowd in the same way as Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal has. But he hopes to rectify that situation. PHOTO: REUTERS

Consistency has seen Serb netting more success than other Big 4 rivals

LONDON • Novak Djokovic was once in danger of becoming tennis' great unfulfilled talent, the smiling Serb with a racquet in one hand and a sick note in the other.

A decade on, he is the super-fit king of the sport, a nine-time Grand Slam champion with the promise of more to come.

Now, where once the sport lauded the Big Four, Djokovic appears to be the last man standing as his rivals falter.

The Serb swept to a third Wimbledon title on Sunday with a 7-6 (7-1), 6-7 (10-12), 6-4, 6-3 victory over Roger Federer, meaning eight of his nine Grand Slams have come since the start of 2011.

Federer, the record 17-time Grand Slam winner and world No. 2, has not won a Slam since Wimbledon three years ago.

World No. 3 Andy Murray won the last of his two Grand Slam titles at the All England Club in 2013. And Rafael Nadal, the 14-time Grand Slam champion, is trapped in a vicious spiral of decline which has sent the 29-year-old spinning to his lowest ranking - No. 10 - in a decade.

MAJOR AMBITION

I'm 28. I feel good... I'm going to try to push my own limits and see how far I can go really with titles.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

By contrast, Djokovic has this year picked up a fifth Australian Open, a third Wimbledon and four Masters titles.

He is also a model of consistency, making the semi-finals in 19 of his last 20 Grand Slams.

"Novak can go to sleep saying, 'I've had more Grand Slams than (Jimmy) Connors, (John) McEnroe, (Andre) Agassi, (Boris) Becker, (Stefan) Edberg, (Mats) Wilander'... the list just goes on and on," former world No. 1 Andy Roddick told the BBC. "He's marching through history. I'm not sure where this ends for Novak."

Sunday's win levelled his career match-up with Federer at 20-20. He has won five of their last seven meetings at the Grand Slams.

Federer will be 34 next month and the longer Sunday's final went on, the further off the pace he fell.

Djokovic is 19-8 to the good against 28-year-old Murray, winning their last eight meetings. Despite trailing Nadal 23-21, Djokovic has won six of their last seven.

Of course, the French Open continues to elude him, defeated in the final in three of the last four years, including in June against an inspired Stan Wawrinka.

That was one of eight Grand Slam finals he had lost.

"There were some finals I should have won but then again, having said that, everything happens for a reason," said Djokovic.

"I try to learn from every experience, especially the ones that don't end up victorious for me.

"I'm 28. I'm going to try to push my own limits and see how far I can go really with titles and with myself playing on this high level."

Djokovic has not been afraid to think outside the box in a bid to boost his career.

In 2011, he overhauled his daily regimen. Swearing by a gluten-free diet, he won three of the four Slams that year.

In December 2013, he drafted in six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker to work alongside long-time coach Marian Vajda.

Despite his phenomenal success, Djokovic often struggles to attract the hero worship which the evergreen Federer and the modest Nadal enjoy.

On the eve of Sunday's Wimbledon final, a BBC TV poll found 75 per cent of people were desperate for Federer to win.

"I have to accept it.

"I have to work and earn the majority of the support. Maybe one day," said the Serb.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2015, with the headline 'Novak holds court without fail'. Print Edition | Subscribe