Ranking Novak Djokovic's Grand Slam Titles

Joe Kennard@@JoeKennardFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2015

Ranking Novak Djokovic's Grand Slam Titles

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    Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal once ruled men's tennis with an iron grip. Between the 2005 French Open and the 2010 U.S. Open, only two other players won a major. One of them was Novak Djokovic, who's completely taken over the throne.

    Since the 2011 Australian Open, Djokovic has asserted himself as the best in the world. He's won seven Grand Slams since then and made five other finals. Championship Sundays are reserved for the Serbian.

    During that span, Djokovic reinvented himself on and off the court, transforming from a brittle and sometimes-unfocused player into a grinder and beacon of physical fitness. Now a husband and father, he's grounded himself and found calm away from the game.

    When he goes home at night, Djokovic can gaze upon his impressive trophy collection, which he's compiled over the last four years with some of the most impressive wins in tennis history. From the hard courts in Melbourne and Flushing Meadows to the pristine lawns of Wimbledon, he's become used to leaving tournaments with hardware.

    The following slides will look back at Djokovic's victories in Grand Slam finals and rank them based on the quality of the match and the magnitude of the situation. At age 27, Djokovic has plenty of time to add to this list and mount an assault on the record books. 

8. 2011 Australian Open

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    Final: defeated Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-3

    From the second the match started, it was one-way traffic for Novak Djokovic.

    The Serbian targeted the Murray backhand at will, opening up court space which he used to ruthlessly attack up the lines. 

    Djokovic's improved forehand proved an especially lethal weapon. He was all over the Murray serve, earning 18 break points and winning 68 percent of second-serve returns for the match. 

    There were few signs of struggle for Djokovic, who served with incredible efficiency and sped around the court like a cheetah. The score could have been even more lopsided, and Djokovic was one point away from winning the second set 6-0 before Murray mounted a brief comeback.

    All tournament long, Djokovic looked like a different player. Imbued with a new sense of confidence and improved fitness after his much-publicized diet change, he raced toward the title. He only lost one set the entire fortnight, trouncing Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals and Roger Federer in the semifinals.

    While the Murray match may have been the least memorable of his Grand Slam final wins, it still served as the catalyst which charted Djokovic's course during a historic 2011 season.

7. 2013 Australian Open

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    Final: defeated Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2

    In the final remembered for a phantom feather, Novak Djokovic was the one who floated to his third-consecutive Australian Open crown.

    Murray, fresh off his victories over Djokovic in 2012 at the Olympics and the U.S. Open final, edged out the first set with brilliant serving. He continued to hold serve in the second set, coming within striking distance of a two-sets-to-love lead.

    But Djokovic found his rhythm in the second tiebreak and took control from there. While the strain of those first two sets finally broke a physically weary Murray, Djokovic appeared to be getting stronger as the match went on.

    Murray failed to break, and the Serbian won a whopping 75 percent of his first serves. Djokovic also displayed his trademark defense, skidding around Rod Laver Arena to track down Murray's best punches. With the help of some punishing returns, he'd break Murray three times over the final two sets to secure another title Down Under.

    “What a joy,” Djokovic said, per The New York Times' Christopher Clarey. “It’s an incredible feeling, winning the trophy once more, and it’s definitely my favorite Grand Slam, my most successful Grand Slam. I love this court.”

    With his fourth Australian Open crown in tow, Djokovic had plenty of reasons to be excited after yet another successful Melbourne campaign.

6. 2015 Australian Open

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Final: defeated Andy Murray 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-0

    With his most recent Grand Slam triumph, Novak Djokovic became just the second man to win five Australian Opens. To reach that stage, Djokovic had to endure a bizarre final.

    Before the match, Murray was the stronger player, dominating Tomas Berdych in an anti-climatic semifinal. Djokovic, however, looked sloppy in a five-set win over Stan Wawrinka in his semifinal. Momentum was in Murray's corner, but the Serbian held the trump card: a 2-0 record against Murray in Melbourne finals.

    The third time wouldn't be the charm for the Scot. 

    As the first two sets dragged out past two-and-a-half hours, the crowd readied itself for another marathon session. When Murray broke for a 2-0 lead in the third set, Djokovic appeared near his breaking point.

    Battling a right thumb injury which he suffered in the first set after diving for a shot, Djokovic struggled to put weight on his legs. He startled hobbling around the court as errors piled up. But then Murray cracked, looking distracted by his opponent's ailments.

    Murray admitted after the match the injury drama affected him. Once he let his guard slip, Djokovic pounced and stormed back to take the third set.

    "We both, of course, went through some tough moments physically," Djokovic said via Reuters' Greg Stuchbury. "I went through the physical crisis in the matter of 20 minutes, end of the second, beginning of the third. Just felt very exhausted and I needed some time to regroup and recharge and get back on track."

    In the final set, he cruised past Murray in 28 minutes, dealing his foe a brutal 6-0 drubbing. That third set comeback had cracked Murray's will, and Djokovic took control for his eighth Grand Slam crown.

5. 2011 U.S. Open

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Final: defeated Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-1

    New York has always brought out the best in Novak Djokovic, with the bright lights and extra attention a perfect match for his amiable personality. But despite reaching the finals in 2007 and 2010, he had yet to win a title there before 2011.

    In the previous year's final, Nadal topped Djokovic in four sets. But standing across the net from the Spaniard this time was a far more confident player.

    Djokovic, empowered by his victories at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and six of the Masters 1000 events, had the mental edge. After beating Nadal in the finals at Wimbledon, Indian Wells, Miami, Rome and Madrid, he'd just have to hold off a vengeful opponent.

    Every adjustment Nadal made for the final was in vain. He still couldn't touch Djokovic, who came out blistering backhands up the line and attacking Nadal with punishing forehands. 

    "It was a tough match," Nadal said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN). "Physical, mental, everything."

    Nadal had no answer for the Djokovic armada in the first two sets. It took everything he had just to extend the match. By that point, he was drained, and Djokovic landed the final body blow with an overpowering 6-1 fourth set.

    He looked in disbelief as his old punching bag again turned the tables for a sixth-straight finals victory in their head-to-head. Djokovic had seized his third Grand Slam title of the year with his most dominant performance yet.

    While Djokovic has reached five finals in Flushing Meadows, that victory over Nadal remains his sole triumph at the tournament, giving the title extra significance.

4. 2011 Wimbledon

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Final: defeated Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3

    Wimbledon is tennis' grandest stage, the tournament which defines the legacies of all those who play.

    For Novak Djokovic, his first title at the All England Club came against his greatest rival.

    Djokovic had never beaten Nadal at a Grand Slam prior to that match. His 0-5 record versus the Spaniard provided an extra barrier he'd have to charge through if he was to lift the golden trophy. But Djokovic was in the midst of his legendary 2011 season and couldn't be stopped.

    The Serbian played like the far more confident and battle-tested player, cruising past Nadal in the first two sets. How easily he dispatched his foe in the second set was startling. But even after a flat third set and late charge from Nadal, Djokovic held on for the win.

    "This is my favorite tournament, the tournament I always dreamed of winning, the first tournament I ever watched in my life," Djokovic said via BBC Sport's Piers Newbery. "I think I'm still sleeping, I'm still having my dream."

    With the win, Djokovic improved to 50-1 in his last 51 matches. He was in the middle of an all-time heat check moment. But more importantly, he dealt the sport's greatest competitor a humbling loss and surged toward the No. 1 ranking. By defeating Nadal in a Grand Slam final, Djokovic had passed the ultimate test.

3. 2008 Australian Open

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    Final: defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (2)

    The match itself wasn't especially memorable, but for Novak Djokovic it announced his arrival as a Grand Slam champion and holds extra significance.

    At age 20, Djokovic became the fourth-youngest man to win the Australian Open. He withstood an early barrage from Tsonga and raced back with glimpses of the brilliant tennis he's so accustomed to now.

    But that was a different Djokovic in 2008. He didn't have the overwhelming physical and mental strength he currently possesses. As he told the Associated Press (h/t ESPN) after the match, the enormity of his first major final weighed heavily on Djokovic.

    Coming on against a player with nothing to lose—he was going for the shots and he was very dangerous, especially in the first set—I was pretty nervous ... This match was especially important because I was the favorite and I knew everybody was expecting me to win, so anything but the win was a loss. I wanted really to win because I felt my chance. I wanted to win my first Grand Slam. Now things are different.

    Even Djokovic couldn't prepare for how much different his life would become. After the victory, he was no longer a prospect. Instead, he became a top contender with a huge target on his back. 

    He wouldn't win another major for three years, but the memory of his maiden Slam title surely gave him hope and confidence things would change. They eventually did as Djokovic made sure that historic night in 2008 was anything but a fluke.

2. 2014 Wimbledon

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    Final: defeated Roger Federer 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4

    Rafael Nadal had been the only man to conquer Federer in a Wimbledon final prior to 2014.

    Novak Djokovic joined that exclusive club last year with a performance for the ages.

    After losing his last three Grand Slam final appearances—and five of his last six—Djokovic entered the match with something to prove. He no longer looked like the unstoppable force who won four majors between the 2011 and 2012 Australian Opens. Djokovic had to show he could cross the finish line again.

    He barely made it to the final, overcoming a two-sets-to-one deficit in the quarterfinal against Marin Cilic and outlasting Grigor Dimitrov in a tightly contested semifinal. Now, he had to face the greatest grass-court player of all time. 

    With the No. 1 ranking on the line, Djokovic displayed resiliency and cool under pressure. Despite losing the first set in a close tiebreak, he bounced back to win the next two sets. At 5-2 in the fourth set, it looked like the coronation was near.

    But Federer wouldn't relinquish the trophy that easily and stormed back to force a deciding set. Being so close to the title and letting it slip away would devastate many players. Djokovic, however, proved his mettle in the final set.

    Facing a break point at 3-3 in the fifth, Djokovic held his nerve. He put pressure right back on Federer, eventually breaking the Swiss at 5-4 to capture his second Wimbledon title.

    Beating Federer at Wimbledon had extra importance for Djokovic, who called the match "the best grand slam final I have ever played in my life", according to the Guardian's Simon Cambers.  

    Both players were visibly emotional during the trophy presentation, the toll of their nearly four-hour match weighing on them. It had been a final of the highest quality, with Djokovic and Federer showcasing their stellar court movement and baseline prowess on tennis' biggest stage.

    To win the title, Djokovic survived 29 aces and 67 net approaches from Federer. The Serbian was under constant pressure throughout the match, but he reasserted himself as the sport's best player with one of the most clutch performances of his career.

1. 2012 Australian Open

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    Scott Barbour/Getty Images

    Final: defeated Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5

    There was so much on the line entering the final, but both players kept raising the stakes with every jaw-dropping point.

    Novak Djokovic was trying to defend his 2011 title and continue his stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking. Nadal desperately sought to end a six-match losing streak—all in finals—to his rival. They each fought for something more than just prize money or hardware; they fought for personal pride.

    The match not only lived up to the hype—it turned into a legendary spectacle.  

    At 5 hours and 53 minutes, their duel became the longest Grand Slam final ever. For nearly six hours, they threw haymaker after haymaker at one another, each man refusing to yield to his opponent. They pushed one another to their physical and emotional limits in an epic battle of attrition.

    Nadal already had a gigantic chip on his shoulder before the match, the pain of all those defeats to Djokovic in 2011 lingering in his mind. He would do everything in his power to avoid losing three-straight Grand Slam finals.

    Yet not even his best efforts could stop Djokovic, who stormed back from a 2-4 deficit in the final set. Unlike his other Grand Slam title wins, Djokovic had his back firmly against the ropes, but he clawed his way out of imminent defeat and drew upon every reserve in his body to will himself to victory. 

    Djokovic, per his post-match quotes from the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), instantly recognized the magnitude of what transpired: 

    It was obvious on the court for everybody who has watched the match that both of us, physically, we took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies ... We made history tonight and unfortunately there couldn't be two winners ... I'm very proud just to be part of this history.

    The match had it all: intense rallies, swings of momentum and enough drama to fill a Shakespearean play. As the two gladiators duked it out, the match began to transcend tennis. It transformed into an exhibition of the human spirit.

    When Nadal's final shot sailed long, Djokovic collapsed on the court in elation. He ripped off his shirt and his primal screams filled Rod Laver Arena. Not only had Djokovic secured the most hard-fought victory of his career, but he had won possibly the greatest match in tennis history. 

    All statistics are courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com unless otherwise noted. 

    Joe Kennard is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. 

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