Novak Djokovic’s eighth victory at the Australian Open has cemented his position as the most successful player to ever grace the grand slam.
The Serb’s gutsy 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Dominic Thiem yesterday saw him claim an eighth crown in Melbourne – more than any other player from any other era. The question now is of how many more major titles await.
His comfortable victory over Roger Federer in the semi-final was telling and ended any hope that the 38-year-old, who was short of his best due to injury, held of joining him on seven titles.
Aside from the Swiss, it leaves Djokovic by far and away the only active player to have won the tournament more than once. Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka are the only others to have won it.
For Federer, who for much of the past fortnight illustrated his ongoing defiance of the ageing process, the chances of claiming another win in Melbourne look unlikely.
He came back from the brink of defeat in both his second-round and quarter-final ties, and insists he can still win a 21st grand slam.
Wimbledon this summer will perhaps be his best bet, but Djokovic, who has now moved on to 17 major titles and is just three behind Federer’s record, is breathing down his neck.
Of course, Nadal, on 19 slams, is closer to breaking Federer’s record and will in all likelihood equal it at the French Open this year, where the Spaniard will seek a 13th win.
But there is something about Djokovic’s ability to excel on all surfaces, along with the fact that he is a year younger than Nadal, that suggests he will have more opportunities to set a new record.
The 32-year-old is not as widely loved as Federer; not adored by fans wherever he goes or cheered on by those watching whoever he plays.
Indeed, after clinching victory yesterday he shushed a crowd that had cheered for Thiem. But with each passing year the grand slam record looks increasingly likely to be his.
Much in the same way Lionel Messi will be considered better than Cristiano Ronaldo by many regardless of how many records the Portuguese holds, for most tennis and sports fans, Federer, not Djokovic, will still be the greatest tennis player of all time – even if the Serb does surpass his tally.
Djokovic still deserves immense praise, though. His focus and ruthlessness on the big occasion are unquestionable. Those ice cold veins that mean he is not as popular as some of his peers serve him well when the pressure is on, like when Thiem held a 2-1 lead on Sunday.
One of just seven men to have won all four grand slams, this winning start means it is not inconceivable that he becomes the first in the Open Era to win them all in a single year, if he can overthrow Nadal’s Roland Garros reign.
That task may continue to prove insurmoutnable but this latest triumph is proof that Djokovic’s CV is far from completion.