Once again this weekend Novak Djokovic showed he is without equal in the sport of tennis right now. For a fourth time, Djokovic swept both Indian Wells and Miami losing merely one single set along the way, that in his opener in the desert to of all people an American qualifier named Bjorn Fratangelo.
And if you haven’t noticed, Djokovic winning titles isn’t a new thing. He’s won the March double for a third straight year and he’s won just about everything else the last 18 months save for Cincinnati and the NBA title, which I’m sure he’d win that too if he joined the NBA!
It’s no wonder he has twice as many ranking points as the next guy Andy Murray, and, in fact, if you add Murray’s points with No. 3 Roger Federer’s, it still falls short of Djokovic! That’s not a gap, that’s an ocean.
So why has he been so dominant? Well, of course it’s because he’s just been that good. Except for his overhead, there are no weaknesses to attack – and you can’t really attack someone’s overhead, can you? He’s also been extremely healthy and clearly smart of his schedule, staff and training regimen – he’s made no “wrong” moves.
But…(and here it comes!)… Djokovic is also helped out by what’s happening around him. As I’ve said before, the tour is now in the full throws of a state of transition, from the Big Four to a younger generation. And look what’s happened to his key opposition of late:
Andy Murray – Resigned to being a father?
Roger Federer – He’s 34, off his prime and now coming off a knee injury.
Rafael Nadal – Unfortunately, closer to retirement than to his best level.
Stan Wawrinka – An inconsistent threat.
And then there’s his two final victims, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. Nishikori’s shown signs but he’s just so fragile. And Raonic doesn’t have that complete game to compete with the guys above him on a regular basis. Not right now.
So going into the clay season, Djokovic is looking even better if you can believe that.
That said, part of the problem his foes face is that very fact Djokovic has given them nothing to feel good about.
Novak’s been consistent and simply dominant. Deep down, did Murray really think he could Djokovic in Australia? Did Nadal really think he could beat Djokovic at Indian Wells? Years ago, yes, but no longer. And that’s credit to Djokovic and how well he’s played.
Who really thinks they can win Monte Carlo? Federer? No. Maybe Nadal, but even he can’t feel that good about his chances if he plays Novak. Stan? Maybe.
And before you (grand) slam me for arguing Djokovic is benefiting from a “weak field”, if you will, Federer did the exact same back in mid 2000s when he built up his resume beating up on even a weaker field (and Serena did it last year). I wrote about that here.
Now, it seems, Djokovic is getting a bite of that same apple and he’s not being shy about. He’s taken big chunks, and why not? And with the current landscape the way it is – I don’t see this younger generation rising up for another 12-18 months and Federer/Nadal/Murray in decent – he’s got the tour all to himself. And I bet it tastes real good.
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