Novak Djokovic: Why Success Is Due to Decline of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

Chris Siddell@@siddellcCorrespondent IIINovember 9, 2011

BASEL, SWITZERLAND - NOVEMBER 05:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts after losing a point during his semi-final match against Kei Nishikori of Japan during day six of the Swiss Indoors at St Jakobshalle on November 5, 2011 in Basel, Switzerland.  (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have dominated tennis for half a decade, winning 26 Grand Slam titles between them.  No other player has come close to them.

Back in 2003, Federer won his first Grand Slam.  It was clear he was going to be good, but he couldn’t win everything.  Then a couple of years later, a young challenger appeared—Rafael Nadal won his first Grand Slam in 2005.

Including that first victory for Nadal, there have been 24 Grand Slam tournaments.  Either Federer or Nadal (Fedal) have been in the final of all but one, the 2008 Australian Open.

Even more striking is that they have won almost all of them, only two others have actually won a Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic being one and Juan Martin del Potro the other.

Before 2011, del Potro was the only player to have beaten both Nadal and Federer in the same Grand Slam tournament.  An incredible stat, demonstrating just how much Fedal have dominated.

In that period of domination, 2005-2011, Novak Djokovic barely got a look in.  He emerged as one of the next best, along with Andy Murray, but neither Djokovic or Murray seemed to worry Fedal when it came to the big tournaments.

Anyone who claims Djokovic is a better player (overall, not just in 2011), will not be able to justify their claims.  I should know, I tried it.

Whilst the majority of Federer fans seem to be grounded, and accept that he is starting to decline, fans of Nadal are less realistic. The same applies to fans of Djokovic.

My last article was a little tongue in cheek, looking at how fans (specifically fans of Nadal and Djokovic) see the game panning out, in their heads, over the next few years.

Whilst it would be great to think of Nadal and Djokovic becoming great rivals and winning almost everything, I’m afraid that just won’t happen.  For a start, Nadal is also in decline. 

Tennis fans are quick to comment about how the Spaniard seems to have lost that little extra he had, how Djokovic seems to have figured him out and how he isn’t the same player he was.  Well, he’s not.

Novak Djokovic has just been in the right place at the right time.  In the one year where Federer and Nadal both failed to reach their best, he did.

It is incredibly hard to write this without sounding like I am taking away from Djokovic, I assure you that is not my intention.  He is a great tennis player and will win more Grand Slam titles I’m sure, but three in one year?  He isn’t that good.

His incredible success in 2011 has simply been due to the decline of Fedal.  If they had both been at their best, then he would not have won three titles this year.

There was always going to be a time when Fedal would step aside, and that day has now passed.  This isn’t to say they will never win again, I’m sure they will,  but their days of dominating tennis are over.

Some people look at Djokovic as the man who will now dominate tennis, again that won’t be the case.  A great player, but a top three player, not a runaway No. 1.

2011 will be remembered by tennis fans for a long time.  It was the year Novak Djokovic dominated tennis.  It was also the year Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal went into decline, and lost their grip on Grand Slams.