World No1 Novak Djokovic insists he is resisting the temptation to conclude that his recent dominance has extinguished the era of a so-called big four in men’s tennis.
Djokovic’s emphatic straight-sets dismissal of Andy Murray in yesterday’s Australian Open final brought the Serb a record-equalling sixth title in Melbourne, where he has lost just once since 2010.
It was the 28-year-old’s third consecutive grand slam triumph and a fourth from the last five, meaning he would become only the third man to hold all four simultaneously at the French Open in June.
His regular battles with 17-time slam winner Roger Federer, 14-time winner Rafael Nadal and two-time winner Murray, who between them have won 44 of the last 51 majors, came to typify the big four’s monopoly.
Yet of those rivals, Nadal was the last to win a slam, at the 2014 French Open, since when Djokovic has added another five to take his career tally to 11, level with Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg.
His latest despatching of world No2 Murray also raises further questions about the ability of even his closest rivals to challenge him, following as it did a brutal defeat of Federer in the semi-finals.
Djokovic also trounced Nadal in Qatar during January, but is adamant that he remains under fierce pressure from the chasing pack and fears the complacency that thinking otherwise might attract.
“I don’t want to allow myself to be in that frame of mind,” he said. “If I do, the person becomes too arrogant and thinks that he’s a higher being or better than everybody else. You can get a big slap from karma very soon. I don’t want that.
“I heard actually a nice metaphor yesterday: ‘the wolf climbing the hill is hungrier than the wolf at the top’. You can observe it from different sides but I believe all the guys are out there fighting each week to get to No1 and I know that.”
Djokovic wasted no time in asserting his authority against Murray, who he has now beaten in four Australian Open finals and in 11 of their last 12 meetings.
It was 24 minutes before the Scot won a game as his opponent raced into a 5-0 lead and quickly wrapped up the first set. Murray fought back from a break down in an epic second but to no avail, and did the same in the third only to lose a decisive tie-break.