Though long considered to be the third wheel to a game dominated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, a new king of the courts has emerged in tennis.
Novak Djokovic, the 23-year-old pride of his native Serbia, has ascended to the highest ranks of tennis history in the past year. Today, no one parallels his dominance.
Djokovic began his meteoric rise in the early tournaments of 2011, opening the season with a second title at the Australian Open en route to a 43-match winning streak. Though falling in the semifinals of the French Open in May, Djokovic easily won 10 tournaments by year’s end, three of them Grand Slams.
Djokovic was peerless in his dominance in 2011. His 70-match wins gave him a 93 percent winning record and included multiple defeats of both Nadal and Federer. In fact, Djokovic bested Nadal in all six matches they played last season, each being in the final of a tournament. Djokovic claimed the world No. 1 ranking in July, making him the first player besides Nadal or Federer to hold the title since Andy Roddick in 2003 and has held the ranking since.
Lauded Association of Tennis Professionals Player of the Year in 2011, Djokovic continued to steamroll his competition into 2012. He opened this season in a spectacular fashion, defending his Australian Open title in a match against Nadal in the longest final in Grand Slam history. Just this month, Djokovic defeated world No. 4 Andy Murray to defend his title at the Miami Masters.
And next month, Djokovic could make history in Paris, France. Should he win at Roland Garros, he would be the first player since 1969 to win four consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.
Though fierce on the court, perhaps Djokovic’s most endearing quality is his good-humored nature. He is known for his lighthearted impersonations of other players and his constant optimism.
But he’s no “Djoke,” as former world No. 1 Boris Becker noted: “He’s beaten everybody [that comes] around to challenge him.”