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Novak Djokovic Takes Over World No. 1 Ranking, Says He’s Hunting ‘Historic’ No. 1 With Most Grand Slams

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Novak Djokovic

By virtue of winning his eighth Australian Open title and 17th career Grand Slam crown on Sunday over Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic replaced Rafael Nadal as the new No. 1 on the ATP Tour.

In this Golden Age of men’s tennis, the Serb now stands three major titles behind Roger Federer’s men’s mark of 20 Grand Slam crowns. Nadal stands second all-time with 19 and will bid to tie Federer in a few months at the French Open, where the Spaniard has won 12 times.

At 32, Djokovic is the youngest of the “Big Three” who have now combined to win the last 13 major titles dating to the 2016 U.S. Open. He made no secret of the fact that his ultimate goal is to finish No. 1 on the career majors list — ahead of both Federer, 38, and Nadal, 33.

Novak Djokovic

“Obviously, at this stage of my career Grand Slams are the ones that I value the most,” Djokovic said in Melbourne. “They are the ones that I prioritize before the season starts. I try to set my form [and] shape for these events where I can be at my prime tennis and mental and physical abilities. And there are a lot of stats that obviously I am proud of. But they can’t dictate my career.

“Of course there’s a lot of history on the line and I do have professional goals. Grand Slams are one of the main reasons why I’m still competing and still playing full seasons and trying to obviously get the historic No. 1. That’s the other big goal and I put myself in this position that is really good at this moment. And I’m super-happy with the way I started the season, it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the year.”

From Federer’s perspective, it’s only a matter of time before the two younger men surpass him.

“I think the way it’s going, obviously, Rafa and Novak will win more,” Federer told Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press last month in Dubai, “because they’re that good. And the season they had (in 2019), again, shows that there is more to come for them.”

Djokovic and Nadal split the four majors in 2019 with the Serb winning the Australian for a seventh time and Wimbledon for a fifth time by virtue of a thrilling five-set win over Federer in which he fought off double-match point.

Had Federer won one of those points, he’d be at 21 majors now, a two-Slam cushion over Nadal and and five-Slam swing over Djokovic.

Nadal captured his 12th French Open crown and fourth U.S. Open title to get to 19 Slams entering the new decade.

Federer acknowledged in November he could play into 2021 and beyond as long as he enjoys playing the game, remains competitive and his wife and four children are on board.

Roger Federer

He will turn 40 in 2021.

“So 2020 is set but 2021, I just don’t know because it’s too far away but of course if I have the chance to play and everything’s still working sure why not?” Federer said.

That would give him another couple of years to try to add to his total and create distance between himself and Nadal and Djokovic. Wimbledon remains his best chance of winning major No. 21.

When Pete Sampras stopped playing after winning the 2002 U.S. Open, he had 14 majors and few thought that would be surpassed.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer

“I looked up to him so much that I felt, also, uncomfortable maybe, sometimes, breaking his records,” Federer told the AP. “It’s not something I ever wanted to do. It just happened to be like this. But of course I knew it was a big, big-time moment in our sport. And I think those are the moments you will remember.

“Now, at the end, if somebody else would pass you, I mean, I guess it’s OK, because that’s what sports is all about. It’s a lot about numbers. It’s a lot about records. But I had my moment and I always said everything that comes after 15 was, anyway, a bonus. And especially after the knee injury (in 2016), everything that came after that was a bonus. I would have taken one more Slam, and I was able to get three more — and three amazing ones.”

Federer was referring to the Australian Open titles he won in 2017 and ‘18 and the 2017 Wimbledon he won at 35.

The “Big Three” of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won the last 13 majors while 11 different women have captured the last, most recently including 21-year-old American Sofia Kenin in Melbourne.

Novak Djokovic and coach

Now everyone who follows tennis, including Federer, is curious how long this “Golden Age” can last.

“I honestly think it’s going to be quite exciting to see how much longer can they go. How much more can they win? They might have some more incredible years ahead of them. That’s my assumption,” Federer told the AP. “It’s a bit of a golden time for tennis right now, no doubt.”

Nearly two decades later, three men have left Sampras in the dust.


Marian Vajda: Novak Djokovic is stable, confident and knows what he wants

Novak Djokovic

Coach Marian Vajda says it is now easier to work with Novak Djokovic as the 32-year-old Serb is now more emotionally stable on the court and his confidence is sky high. Djokovic, who returned to world No. 1 this Monday, captured his record eighth Australian Open title on Sunday after coming from two sets to one down to beat Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the final.

Vajda, who started coaching Djokovic for the first time in 2006, briefly split with the 17-time Grand Slam champion in 2017 but returned to the Serb’s coaching staff a year later. “In the past it was kind of more difficult with him to work because he was sometimes unpredictable and emotional a little bit.

But now I think he is more stable and knows what he wants and you can see in his game, he is quite confident,” coach Vajda exclusively told Ravi Ubha in Melbourne. Djokovic has had an outstanding start to the season as he also led Serbia to winning the title at the inaugural ATP Cup.

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