Can Novak Djokovic Overhaul Roger Federer (And Rafael Nadal) To Become The Most Successful Male Grand Slam Winner Of All Time?
An ecstatic Novak Djokovic clenched both fists and roared “Come onnnnnn!” after Juan Martin del Potro fired a forehand into the tramline, which brought to an end the 2018 US Open final, as the rejuvenated Serbian recorded a comprehensive three-set victory that subsequently moved him alongside American icon Pete Sampras on 14 Grand Slam singles titles.
The success was Djokovic’s third at Flushing Meadows, and second successive Slam on the spin following his success at Wimbledon earlier in the summer - he’s now won the Wimbledon-US Open double three times - with the All England Club triumph his first Slam since the 2016 French Open.
Djokovic is now once again the most successive tennis player in history, in terms of on court career prize money, having amassed £92m after receiving £2.94m for his US Open victory, which jumped him above Roger Federer (£90.1m), although the Swiss has 98 career titles to Djokovic’s 71, and seven more Slams but we’ll get to that later.
Since 2011 the dominant Djokovic has remarkably won 13 of the 32 Slams on offer. During this period he’s bagged the aforementioned three US Open titles, four Wimbledon trophies, one French Open, and five Australian Opens, while he also won Down Under back in 2008 which was his first Slam trophy.
In this era (2011 to the present day) Djokovic has twice won three Slams in a year (2011 and 2015), and at one point he remarkably held onto all four trophies. He completed the “Career Slam” in 2016 - becoming the eighth player to do so - after finally getting his hands on the French Open which came after three final defeats in four years, while 2017 is the only year within this period in which he fired blanks on the Slam front.
In the same time frame Federer has won four Slams, Nadal eight, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka have three apiece, whereas Marin Cilic (2014 US Open) is the only other male player to get his hands on one of the prized quartet of trophies.
From a statistical point of view, Federer is the most successful player of all time on 20 Grand Slams. The immensely popular Swiss is also widely viewed as the greatest ever, and while he won only one Slam between 2011 and 2016 compared to Djokovic's 11, the 37-year-old has since showed that he's not finished just yet having grabbed three Slams in his last six showings, and he'll no doubt add to his overall tally before he puts away his racket.
Hot on Federer's heels is Nadal on 17 Slams, which includes a simply staggering 11 successes at Roland Garros. The Spaniard endured a couple of bleak and blank years in 2015 and 2016, but has since stormed back with two more French Open titles and a US Open success, while he has only failed to reach the semi-finals in two of his last eight Slams.
As touched upon, Djokovic is now tied with Sampras in 3rd-place, with the duo each on 14 Slams...but how far can the former go?
At 31 Djokovic has the potential to catch-up his rivals providing he remains fit, firing and perhaps most importantly, motivated. His defence his extraordinary, as is his stamina, ferocious competitiveness, fight, grit and mental strength, while his immense ability to thrive in pivotal moments is incredible. At his peak, he's arguably the best on the circuit.
You’d expect Djokovic to go on and move ahead of Sampras in the rankings, but the question is, can he catch Nadal, or even Federer?
Djokovic comes out on top in the majority of the head-to-head records. He edges Federer 24-to-22 wins in singles events, and 9-to-6 in Slams, while he leads Nadal 27-to-25 wins, although the Spaniard has the edge in Slams, 9-to-5, however Djokovic has won the last two duels.
History informs us he's thrived at the Australian Open, winning in five of his last eight showings, although he’s flopped on his last two visits. However, you’d expect him to finish top of the pile at least one more time. Nadal has obviously dominated the French, while Djokovic initially struggled on grass but has won three of the last five Wimbledons, and in his last three visits to New York he’s won two US Open titles, and finished runner-up to Wawrinka in the other.
Djokovic's summer double means another period of dominance could already be underway...