Novak Djokovic Earns Place Alongside Tennis' Top Legends with Wimbledon 2015 Win

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistJuly 12, 2015

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Who comes to mind when you think about the best men's tennis players of all time?

Do names like Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi pop up? How about John McEnroe and Boris Becker?

Well, Novak Djokovic now has won more Slams than all of those players. He is alone in fifth on the list of all-time major champions in the Open Era and has already amassed a legacy that makes him one of all-time greats.

The Serb won his ninth Slam at Wimbledon on Sunday with a 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Roger Federer. He now has three Wimbledon titles, five Australian Open titles and one U.S. Open title.

"It's a dream come true again. Even though I won it for a third time, every time it feels like the first," Djokovic said on ESPN after the match. "

Currently, in the Open Era, Djokovic trails only Bjorn Bjorg, who has 11 majors; Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras at 14; and Federer at 17.

Oh, and he's still firmly in the prime of his career—the world No. 1 is 28 years old and shows no signs of slowing down, which is scary news for the four guys above him.

"To me, Djokovic over the next 10 Slams, he could add at least five (majors)," Brad Gilbert said on ESPN after the final.

That's not a ridiculous prediction from Gilbert. Djokovic's consistency over the past five years proves that he is going to put himself in position to contend for many more Slams on every surface.

Since the 2011 U.S. Open, Djokovic has made it to 12 major finals, winning six of them. He's only failed to make it to one major semifinal in that period, falling in the Australian Open quarters in 2014 to eventual champ Stan Wawrinka.

He has been ranked No. 1 in the world for 154 weeks during that span, finishing the year with the top ranking three times. And his lead at No. 1 this year is so large—he's over 4,000 points ahead of Federer at No. 2—that he's about to add a fourth year as the top dog to his resume.

As Federer ages, Nadal and Andy Murray struggle with injuries and the rest of the circuit's best remain dangerous but erratic, Djokovic is just standing his ground with his seemingly effortless greatness. Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, had this to say:

The Serb's standard level of play is so good, so solid in every way, that it takes a truly remarkable performance—like the one Wawrinka gave in the French Open final last month or the one Kei Nishikori produced in the U.S. Open semifinals last year—to defeat him.

You could tell on Sunday in the Wimbledon final how much pressure that put on Federer's game.

The 17-time major champion, who had played one of the matches of his life in the semis against Andy Murray, knew that he had to be practically perfect on every single shot just to stay in the match against Djokovic. Eventually, that wore him down.

Toby Melville/Associated Press

Federer summoned all of his might and talent to take the second set in a tiebreaker, after Djokovic relinquished six set points, but Djokovic immediately recovered and the last two sets of the match felt routine. 

All of the tennis legends have a defining characteristic. With Federer, it's his tennis IQ, with Nadal it's his fight, and with Djokovic, it's his resiliency.

I'm not just talking about the elasticity of his muscles, which is a sight to behold. I'm talking about his ability to bounce back from tough moments mentally and emotionally, time after time. That's what sets him apart and makes him such an elite player.

We've seen this in big ways, such as how he turned his career around following his three-year-long struggle after winning his first major in 2008. But mostly, this trait is showcased in short time frames.

Toby Melville/Associated Press

He displayed his resiliency in between the French Open and Wimbledon, setting aside the heartache of once again failing to win his Career Slam in Paris and coming to Wimbledon renewed and refocused.

He showed his ability to bounce back in the fourth round after dropping the first two sets to the big-serving Kevin Anderson of South Africa, and he showed it in the final after squandering the second set to Federer.

Djokovic does get frustrated and he does make mistakes, but he's able to put them in the rear-view mirror before they do any lasting damage. That's something that only the most special athletes can do.

The Serb's Wimbledon win on Sunday didn't show us anything new, but it did drive home just how remarkable a tennis player, competitor and champion he has become.

Djokovic is no longer in anyone's shadow. In fact, these days, the shadow hanging over the rest of men's tennis is his own. 

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