Cristiano Ronaldo is a footballing icon, an example for all to follow. Through dedication to his craft, to his body and to the professionalism that top sport requires, the Portuguese has become one of the greatest sports people of all time and is now in arguably the best form - and shape - of any 36-year-old footballer in history.
Novak Djokovic is the Cristiano Ronaldo of men’s tennis. At 33, the Serb is now out on his own as the greatest his sport has to offer and only looks to be getting further and further away from the competition. He has won six of the last 10 Grand Slam titles on offer and is getting fitter as he gets older.
On Monday, Djokovic will break the record for the longest total time spent as the number one male tennis player in the world, passing Roger Federer's previous record mark of 310 weeks at the top of the world rankings. And the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion isn’t letting up as he searches for the three Grand Slam wins which would see him overtake Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record of 20 career titles.
“After achieving the historic number one for the longest weeks at number one, it’s going to be a relief for me because I’m going to focus all my attention on slams mostly,” he said recently.
“When you are going for the No.1 ranking you kind of have to be playing the entire season, and you have to be playing well, you have to play all the tournaments.
“My goals will adapt and will shift a little bit, which means that I will have to adjust my calendar also… not have to, but I will have an opportunity to do that, which, as a father and husband, I’m really looking forward to.”
The message is clear. Just as Ronaldo is often now rested by Juventus for the Coppa Italia or for dead rubbers in the Champions League, Djokovic is putting all of his eggs in one basket. He has history in his sights.
His 18 Grand Slam successes dwarf the tallies of every male tennis player that went before this current generation, and a quick look at the landscape in 2021 suggests there is nothing to stop Djokovic looking down on even Federer and Nadal by the time he’s done.
Some people might think that his latest piece of history is an idiosyncrasy, a meaningless stats in a world in which the big tournaments are all that matter. But the world rankings recognise those who are consistently brilliant, particularly in Grand Slams, which carrying a heavy weight when it comes to totting up ranking points. Djokovic currently lies more than 2000 points ahead of Nadal in the standings with Nadal defending maximum points at Roland Garros in May.
Djokovic was the unstoppable No.1 for 122 weeks between July 2014 and November 2016, and there’s no reason why he can’t get close to that mark again at a time when Federer is likely to miss a huge chunk of the year through injury and Nadal’s level has dropped markedly away from the clay.
Just as Ronaldo becomes more driven, more intent on standing out from the rest in his later years – so much so he has netted more than 300 goals just since turning 30 – so too does Djokovic look to break more records as his own sunset starts to poke into view somewhere on the horizon.
Djokovic has the physique to see it through until all the records in the book belong to him, and there’s no sign of him stopping until he’s well out in front.