It was bound to happen. For as well as Mr. Novak Djokovic had played over the course of the first half of the tennis season, nothing was going to stop his eventual arrival to the top of the men's game. There's no guarantee he'll remain there, as you can never count out one Rafael Nadal, but for now Novak's dominance of the ATP is indisputable.
So what are we to make of Novak? A year ago, if your name didn't end in -adal or -ederer, you unequivocally had no shot to win a grand slam. It was an exclusive club and no one else was invited to join. The gap between the top two players in the world and the rest of the field had grown larger than ever in the history of the game and it seemed unfathomable that it would ever close.
Yet here we are already talking about Nole as the best player in the world. Roger is now just an afterthought. Rafa believes his game is a mismatch against the tenacious Serb. It just goes to show you how quickly this game can change.
Before Rafa began collecting all of his French Open titles and eventually the handful of others that have helped catapault his name in the record books to 4th in grand slam titles with 10, Roger was widely considered the best tennis player of all time. But now, Nadal is closing in on the record for grand slams and, even if he doesn't surpass Federer's record, he will have still forever created doubt as to who is the best of all time because his record against Roger is completely lopsided in his favor (17-8).
I guess this teaches us that we as fans shouldn't hand out titles like "best ever" until a career is over. But where's the fun in that? When we talk about sports it's interesting to make comparisons in history. The hypotheticals and the analysis is what makes sports talk or sports writing readable, otherwise we'd all just write about stats and as we all know, there's a lot more color to the world of sports than the black and white of boring statistics.
So where does Novak Djokovic stand all-time? Is Nole, who is playing the best tennis of his career, better now than Roger Federer when he was playing the best tennis of his career four or five years ago? I know this might shock some people, especially because in the past I have been a Djokovic detractor due to his arrogant attitude on the court, but I believe his game has reached a level unlike that which we have seen before.
The way Novak is able to turn defense into offense has given him such an advantage every time he steps out onto the court. No one, not even Rafa, has the ability to turn points around in one shot like he can. Rafa maybe able to get to every ball with his speed, but Novak can match that speed and instead of slicing the ball back or lobbing it deep in the court, can rip balls at inscrutable angles for winners.
And because he is so young, his serve will continue to improve -- like Roger's did -- and he will eventually figure his way around the net -- as Rafa finally learned. But even without these essential skills honed, Novak is still dominating the sport. Imagine him with a game as well-rounded as Roger's was back in the prime of his career. Novak's going to be a tough man to beat -- that is -- even tougher than he is now.