Novak Djokovic has made a career out of flipping the script. For so long he played third fiddle to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, two of the best and most popular players to ever grace the court. While Nadal and Fed fought it out like two titans, Djokovic was the lovable class clown. I can only think Djokovic got tired of being the clown. Nobody’s laughing at him now.
In 2010 Nadal seemed to finally be reaching his peak, taking home the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S Open, completing the career slam. All Rafa fans, including myself, were looking forward to him taking home the Australian Open so that he could take the Rafa Slam, all four majors in a row. However, Nadal went down in the quarterfinals and Djokovic finally saw his chance to strike, beating Federer in the semis and taking home the championship with a win over Andy Murray. He hasn’t slowed down since.
Djokovic didn’t lose a single match until the French Open, ending up with a 43-match winning streak. Really incredible stuff. He took the U.S Open, culminating one of the most amazing years we had ever seen. Honestly, I found it unbelievably annoying. My favorite player, Nadal, was finally reaching a Federer level of dominance when Djokovic had to crash the party. But Djokovic couldn’t care less. He has held the Number 1 spot for all but three months since July of 2011, and currently has been at Number 1 for 83 weeks, already the ninth-longest streak ever. How could the ultimate outsider become the king?
Years of playing court jester to the big two should have made Djokovic mentally weak. You might think that seeing Fed and Rafa grab 21 of the 24 Grand Slams from 2005 to 2010 would make Djokovic settle for just making semifinals and winning the occasional smaller tournament. But Djokovic is a better man than us. He committed himself to the game like never before. He got into the best shape of his career by going gluten-free and just practiced like he never had before. By doing this, Djokovic gave himself the most important tool in dethroning the kings: confidence.
Before it was only Rafa and Fed who had the confidence to hit any shot from anywhere on the court. While they seemed to defy the angles and punish you no matter what shot you hit, the other guys had to settle for what they could get. I can only think that Djokovic realized this, and finally put himself in the best situation to attain this confidence. The clown has put everyone in their place, and it doesn’t look like anyone is ready to stop him.