Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer to win his fifth Wimbledon title Sunday | @DjokerNole | Twitter
File photo of Novak Djokovic | @DjokerNole | Twitter
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Novak Djokovic won the Wimbledon finals Sunday because he deserved to win. Because he was the better player.

Sports is not just an art that exists to please the viewer. For that, we have cinema, music and paintings. Sports is a competition, where winning matters more than anything else, provided rules are not bypassed. And Djokovic, you win, and have been winning more than any other male player for quite some time now.

So, how do you do it? How do you manage to win 4 out of the last 5 slams? How do you manage to emerge victorious in a Wimbledon final when clearly you are not even playing at your best? When your own serve is misfiring and your opponent Roger Federer is making you – the best returner of our generation – look like a commoner? When that opponent, in fact, happens to be one of the best grass-court players ever?

Let me sum it all up, and ask again. How do you, Novak Djokovic, make even that occasional ordinariness prevail over perennial brilliance?


Also read: M.S. Dhoni to Roger Federer – is there a right time to retire from sports?


Here’s my unpopular opinion: Novak, you are not the third wheel who gatecrashed the Roger-Rafa party we had been enjoying for so long. You are the third wheel of a different kind – the one that is at the front of a tricycle and guides and stabilises it. You are like the third dimension, which enhances our cinematic experience.

You may have arrived late to the party, but you have been its real showstopper. You came, you saw (the sheer mastery of Federer and Rafael Nadal) and you conquered (both).

The objectivity of statistics will cede space to the nostalgia of the past for now. People will ignore your better head-to-head against Federer (26-22) and Nadal (28-26). They will discount the fact that you have won 54 big titles (16 slams, 33 masters 1000 and 5 ATP year-end championships), the same as Federer (20 slams, 28 masters 1000 and 6 ATP year-end championships) in far fewer appearances than him. You also have two more big titles than Nadal (18 slams and 34 masters 1000). People will ignore the fact that you have completely dominated the tennis arena since 2011, and lead Federer (20-9, not counting one Djokovic victory due to walkover) and Nadal (21-10) by a long margin in this period.

They will, for now, quote the slam tally to undermine your superiority. They will talk about the elegance in Federer’s shots, the finesse in his on-court movement, the apparent ease of his play – all of which you probably lack in comparison.

But it doesn’t matter. Barring some unfortunate injury, a higher slam tally than all your contemporaries is a foregone conclusion.


Also read: Why maverick Andy Murray defined an era of thrilling tennis (and rivalry)


Granted, a sport cannot completely ignore the viewer. After all, it depends on her for its very survival and sustenance. But it’s also true that the sense of what constitutes a more aesthetic style of play can vary from person to person. And people watch sports not just for its style, but also for the thrill it provides. In tennis, that thrill comes not only when a baseliner competes against a serve-and-volleyer, but also when s/he grunts it out against another.

In sports, as in politics, putting too much emphasis on style can also have serious pitfalls. For one, it is symptomatic of the larger human tendency to collectively suspend all sense of disbelief just because a certain style resonates at a more innate level with everyone. In sports, this can take a form where a player like Cheteshwar Pujara is temporarily dropped from the test team for a more ‘stylish’ K.L. Rahul.

In the long run, however, perceived sense of style will not determine your legacy, Djokovic. Not that you don’t possess a style. Future generations won’t be constrained by the nostalgia of the past. They will also be unwilling to accept popular narratives devoid of evidence. They will undoubtedly look at old tennis videos. While looking at them, some will marvel at your efficiency and precision, some at Nadal’s tenacity and persistence, and some at Federer’s very excellence.


Also read: With Djokovic’s recent wins, is it time to anoint him king of tennis over Federer & Nadal?


But they will also look at the numbers. And these numbers will unambiguously summarise one reality – that in the three-horse tennis derby of our times, you were the first among equals.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. In the comments section people have given apt reply to your piece, i have the highest respect for novac, and only one question for you, do you even have the slightest understanding of the game of tennis??!!

  2. That article, numbers! HAHA. Yesterday at Wimbledon Final, Federer had more total points (218-204), more winners (94-54), more breaks of serve (7-3), and a higher percentage of points won on both his first and second serve and at the net. He is also 38 years old next month. Here’s for your numbers.

  3. Beautifully written. People will always side with their choices and that is fine. Novak certainly is underappreciated but i think he has moved on personally . The fact that he still dominates without being a crowd favorite shows how determined he is.
    I have always been a Novak fan right from when he started. he had everything going against him but he fought and emerged victorious.

  4. Nice article…Sports is not just an art that exists to please the viewer. For that, we have cinema, music and paintings. Sports is a competition, where winning matters more than anything else, provided rules are not bypassed…what a fantastic words…

  5. You’re an imbecile – there is no such thing as “big” titles – you just made that up. There are majors or grand slams, and then there’s everything else. And if, as you say, Djokovic will surpass Nadal and Federer in majors, then there’s absolutely no reason to jump the gun, unless of course you’re concerned that he won’t.

    The stupidity of this piece is captured perfectly by your irrational title.

  6. Very well written; I am die hard Novak fan and today everyone in my hospital felt he won by luck and federer!! Either it’s lack of their tennis acumen or it’s an overall IQ issue is something debatable!!! Djokovic didn’t play well and still beat federer and when he does play well he beats 9/10times

  7. You seems to be an fan of Novak or just started following Tennis since last 6-7 years. There are a lot of things, Nadal also hold such records before 2006, 7, 8, 9 and 10 and untill 2015-16 , also please check the injury records of Nadal.
    Nadal maintained the H2H with him much more time then Novak, so please stop bashing Nadal, he is real geneious and so Novak.
    Nadal and Novak both are better than Fedrer but you can’t give a sheer advantage over Nadal only on 2 more H2H. Nadal is winning GS since his teen, who held Novak to win GS in teen age.
    Nadal and Novak both started their professional career at same time and who has the more GS, also Please include Olympic Gold and Davis Cup. Please count Masters with 5 setter differently than 3 setter you would come to know who is better.
    Please wait until all these retire and then I would agree to the stats. Until then don’t write a fanboy kind of article.

    Thanks!

    • No Vaseem, she seems to be a fan of statistics. Reread the article, in particular and then do the math:

      People will ignore your better head-to-head against Federer (26-22) and Nadal (28-26). They will discount the fact that you have won 54 big titles (16 slams, 33 masters 1000 and 5 ATP year-end championships), the same as Federer (20 slams, 28 masters 1000 and 6 ATP year-end championships) in far fewer appearances than him. You also have two more big titles than Nadal (18 slams and 34 masters 1000). People will ignore the fact that you have completely dominated the tennis arena since 2011, and lead Federer (20-9, not counting one Djokovic victory due to walkover) and Nadal (21-10) by a long margin in this period.

      Another ignorant and disappointed Feddy fan that can’t give credit where credit is due. Novak is and will always be in a class of his own. What he prevailed and endured to make it to number 1 compared to all the other greats is nothing short of miraculous. Bravo Nole!

  8. Haven’t read a terrible article like this in a long time. Sorry Mr.Mishra, you really need to work on your writing.

  9. 1. Author of this article has every right to sing praise of Novak Djokovic. But I think both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer deserve congratulations, though there was only one winner. 2. If Novak Djokovic, in spite of his 16 Grand slams titles, is still not regarded as someone who should be respected as a human being, Djokovic must be ready to some quiet introspection. In this context, I wish to recall Djokovic’s intemperate interview after he won his first Grand Slam title, Australian Open, in January, 2008. He had then said that era of Roger Federer and the likes was nearing an end. Obviously, his were immature remarks. Perhaps, then as an abrasive young tennis professional, Djokovic’s 2008 interview could be regarded as reflection of his professional rivalry with contemporary players. 3. I am sure that Djokovic of 2019 would not say something which he said in 2008. But I also believe that discerning crowd of spectators present in the Centre Court in Wimbledon on Sunday, 14th July knew very well why they were overwhelmingly supporting Roger Federer.

  10. Inspite of all data you seem to have collected, the viewer(fan) like me will most certainly give the thumbs up to the kind of tennis that gives me joy. Not your mundane numbers that you can reel out day in and day out. What impresses me is the ecstatic expression of the talent that a Roger possesses not the machine like precision of play g tennis. No matter who is remembered for what I will always remember the joy in watching Roger Federer play.

  11. You have very valid points and yes Djokovic is undoubtedly the best for past few years, so were Nadal, Federer or Sampras & the likes. Tomorrow someone else will come and break Djo’s records. Basically it is personal choice who’s game you enjoy more (in my case Federer), which should not stop you from admiring other players’ achievements.

  12. Sports is not just about performance but also about charisma. No one discounts Djokovic, and ardent tennis fans knew that Federer will stand no chance. However, Federer played phenomenal tennis W-2019, against Nadal and then in the finals, and that made him a treat to watch. It was like watching a surgeon competing with an artist. It is the calm, regal quality, and the palpable passion for the game (very similar to Sunny Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar) that makes Federer a great sporting personality. Serena Williams is no different in charisma even when she loses in straight sets. Nadal has similar attributes in spite of his grimace. That said, it was WCC that took the cream, and boy, did many of us not year for a TV with split screens.

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