Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2 to win the 2013 Australian Open title and add another rung in his climb up the historical ladder. At minimum, he is the king of Australia and the undisputed No. 1 player in tennis.
After a sluggish first set, it was a match won in typical Djokovic fashion, albeit with an added dimension. He persevered and powered his trademark groundstrokes through a determined Murray, pushing the Scotsman to scowl in frustration. He also forced the action with extra resolve to finish points at the net. His aggressiveness offset a slew of unforced errors
History is calling, looking to expand the Djokovic trophy room. How many more titles will be added to one of the greatest careers in tennis history?
So far, there is no ceiling.
More Respect, Please
His ball-striking talent has transformed erratic potential into dominant superstar play. Since the close of 2010, Djokovic has appeared in eight of 10 possible Grand Slam finals, with five impressive victories.
He changed the balance of power in 2011 by overcoming the Federer-Nadal rivalry. Though public perception toward Djokovic has gradually warmed from antipathy to acceptance because of his deposition of these popular stars, he has continued to talk with his racket and achievements.
Djokovic should get more credit. Perhaps he is too reminiscent of Ivan Lendl—the superstar who bludgeoned his rivals without the kudos of his more charismatic contemporaries.
There are tennis aficionados who say Djokovic’s game is too one-dimensionally brilliant. His serving is suspect, his volleys reluctant and his strategy straight vanilla.
But tennis has never seen a superstar bash groundstrokes on either side with such maniacal intensity. It’s why there are those times he can shrug off lackluster play and turn on his optimum mode. He gets back to the basics of painting lines and bombarding corners. Pressure evaporates as he summons the will to outhit and outlast his competition.
He can stand deep in the outer realms, beyond the baseline, but somehow find the offense and power to back up his defensive positioning. He has expanded the length of the court.
Six Grand Slam wins ties Djokovic with Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg. He looks to match Mats Wilander and John McEnroe with a seventh title. Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Lendl are deadlocked at eight Slam titles.
Suddenly, another three or four Slam titles puts him in the historical pantheon with the likes of Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver and Rafael Nadal. There is still much winning to do, but at age 25, Djokovic may have another three to five years of opportunities to win Slams.
Australia has been conquered. One more title Down Under will put him above all players in the Open Era. Currently Federer and Agassi share his total of four.
He has claimed one Wimbledon and one U.S. Open title. A second Wimbledon title would figure to be more difficult than another U.S. Open title or two on the faster courts at Flushing Meadow.
Djokovic now turns his attention to the French Open. It’s the biggest missing piece to his Hall of Fame achievements. He has threatened with semifinals appearances and last year’s runner-up appearance to Nadal, but the upcoming opportunity may be more attainable as Nadal, winner of seven French Open titles the past eight years, will have to come back from severe injury.
Better in 2013?
How much more can Djokovic win? The sky is not yet in view for the talented Serb, though the threat of injury or the continued emergence of Murray might be his greatest obstacle. He won’t win them all, but it seems likely he will collect his fair share of titles looking into the lenses of the immediate future.
For now, Djokovic will push aside sleep and smile big for the Melbourne trophy photo sessions. He could be a Melbourne tour guide at this point.
It never gets old to win another Slam, and the winds of change are always swirling. He knows that championship hardware is not easily earned.
Soon enough the demands of 2013 will come collecting. The scary thing is Djokovic may just be getting started. His physical prowess and battle-tested competitiveness may yet mature him into a more indomitable warrior.
Who is going to stop him?