Novak Djokovic Will Have Legacy Defined by Clutch Performances

Van SiasContributor IIIAugust 7, 2014

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 06:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia during play against Gael Monfils of France during Rogers Cup at Rexall Centre at York University on August 6, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic, the current world No. 1, possesses devastating groundstrokes off both wings, a potent first serve and heavy second delivery, solid hands up at the net and enough scrambling ability along the baseline, so it's nearly impossible to get a ball past him.

Those same qualities can be attributed to almost anyone residing in the Top 50 of the ATP World Tour rankings.

What sets Djokovic apart from the rest, though, is his ability to come through on the winning side under stressful conditions. His three-set victory over former top-10 player Gael Monfils in the second round of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Toronto is the latest in a string of clutch wins the Serb has tallied over the past few years.

In his first match since capturing Wimbledon for the second time in his career, Djokovic started off sharp, winning the first set 6-2. But if there's one thing that's predictable about Monfils, it's that he's unpredictable. The Frenchman found himself in a winning position but was unable to close the deal, and Djokovic took the match in a third-set tiebreak.

It's almost par for the course that if a contest is in its tightest throes, the safest bet would be to expect Djokovic to come up with the goods.

Just ask Roger Federer.

Their most recent match in the Wimbledon final, a five-set thriller, continued a trend of sorts for some of their battles on the game's biggest stages. Twice in their head-to-heads at the Slams, Djokovic came from behind after being down two sets, at the U.S. Open in 2010 and '11 in the semifinals.

To do that against a player as unflappable as Federer is quite the feat.

But Djokovic has done that to a slew of players since he dedicated himself to becoming the best in the business. Arguably, the only situation where he hasn't come through in a pressure-packed situation is his matches against Rafael Nadal at the French Open. In 2013, he lost 9-7 in the fifth set to the Spaniard in the semifinals and followed that up with a four-set final-round defeat this year.

Still, Djokovic has risen to the occasion many times over the past few seasons and can't be counted out if he and Nadal do meet again in a Roland Garros final.

Because while Djokovic possesses many of the same physical tools as his peers, his mental fortitude is what sets him apart.