Novak Djokovic: Can He Be Number 1 for Years to Come?

Van SiasContributor IIINovember 30, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates match point during his men's singles final match against Roger Federer of Switzerland during day eight of the ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena on November 12, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

It wasn't a repeat of 2011, a year in which he won 10 titles—three of them Grand Slams. But 2012 shouldn't be considered a letdown for world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

The Serb won six events, among them his fifth overall Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. He finished the year the way he started: by winning a major title, this time at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Ending on such a high note should spur him on to continued success in 2013.

Can this recent run continue? Will he firmly establish himself as one of the all-time greats?

Over the past two seasons, Djokovic has shown he can win on any and all surfaces, having won Wimbledon over that span as well as important clay-court titles. Pulling off something of that magnitude, when those surfaces have been dominated in recent times by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, respectively, shows that he must be considered a near-equal under those conditions.

The way the men's game is played now, with slower courts and a focus on baseline play, weighs heavily in Djokovic's favor. He's able to generate offense from the back, as well as keep himself in points by relying on superior defensive ability.

Conversely, while the courts might be playing slower, Djokovic has shown, too, that he's effective returning the biggest service deliveries with interest. And he does well to protect his own service games, finishing in the top 15 in aces in 2012.

But the biggest aspect of Djokovic's success over the past two years has to be the mental strength he's displayed.

He's become an escape artist on the court, often through fearless play rather than taking the conservative approach. When he forced a fifth set against Andy Murray at this year's U.S. Open final, it seemed he was poised to add to his growing Grand Slam haul, but it wasn't meant to be.

Djokovic rebounded nicely from that disappointment and stormed through the fall season, culminating with the year-end title. That momentum should propel him to a strong start in 2013, and having profoundly taken the measure of his peers the past couple of years, a dominant run could extend even further.