In a thrilling match, Djokovic still had to contend with the fact that he wasn’t the crowd favourite. He was booed during the 2019 final against Federer and even given a frosty reception early on in the tournament. As Adam Peacock tweeted: “Novak could be playing a parking officer and still have minority support.” One English TV commentator said: “That’s a very strong hold and that’s full of character. Who do you think you’re dealing with here? The best player of all time. To come here and win five times, ‘You still don’t love me? How dare you.’”
Unfazed, Djokovic proved why he is rapidly cementing his status as the GOAT in the world of tennis. With 85 career titles to his name, he has also become the first to break the $US150 million prize money barrier. Though he’s unsure if he will go to Tokyo, a gold medal at the Olympics could just give him the first ever Golden Grand Slam by a male player. It’s clear for all to say that when Djokovic now steps out on the court, we are witnessing history being made. As Federer tweeted: “Congrats Novak on your 20th major. I’m proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done.”
When asked what it meant to claim a record-matching major triumph, Djokovic joked, “It means none of us three will stop; I think that’s what it means.” But ever the classy player, Djokovic made a touching tribute to his rivals Federer and Nadal, thanking them for their impact on not just the game of tennis, but his career as well. “I have to pay tribute to Rafa and Roger,” said Djokovic. “They are legends of our sport and they are the two most important players I have faced in my career.”
Djokovic went on to add that the two stars are “the reason that I am where I am today,” saying, “They’ve helped me realise what I need to do to improve to get stronger mentally, physically, tactically.”
“When I broke into the top 10 for the first time I lost three, four years most of the big matches I played against these guys. Something shifted, end of 2010, start of 2011, and the last 10 years have been an incredible journey that’s not stopping here,” said Djokovic.
That Djokovic has caught up to the likes of Federer and Nadal is incredible. The two players had dominated the sport in the 2000s when Djokovic was trying to find his footing on the world stage. It was Federer who won his first Grand Slam in 2003 when he defeated Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon in 2003, while Nadal won his first major at Roland-Garros in 2005. By the time Djokovic had got his hands on Grand Slam silverware for the first time in 2008 at the Australian Open, Federer already had 12 majors to his name, and Nadal three.
He might never be the underdog again and while he knows he certainly has the crowd against him, Djokovic is a tennis great, one whose legacy will live on long after he gives up the racquet. Perhaps it’s time now that we give the man the credit he deserves and the kind of respect that’s owed to one of such caliber when it comes to physical excellence and desire to excel. Djokovic is, undisputedly, the best in the world and as he continues to forge a career that will make history, he is owed the recognition of such brilliance.