Balletic, brilliant and the best ever: Why Djokovic has now surpassed Nadal and Federer
By winning in Paris, the Serbian has done what no male player has been able to do since Rod Laver in 1969: hold all four grand slams at the same time
Novak Djokovic does not have the aesthetic beauty of Roger Federer, nor the comic-book-hero gusto of Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic has also hoisted fewer grand slam titles than either.
But the Serbian has now usurped both as the greatest male tennis player of his and, with a respectful nod to the pioneers of the past, probably every other generation.
In their prime, Federer and then Nadal propelled the sport into the gladiatorial game of precision, power and mental fortitude that it is today.
But Djokovic, while not as likeable or popular, has done what neither of them ever could: hold all four slams at the same time.
As the first man to do so since Rod Laver in 1969, that is the decisive factor in dishing out this subjective accolade.
Tennis has never been this good, yet the 29-year-old’s dominance has been so emphatic that the elite once lauded as the Big Four should really now be referred to as the Big One.
Djokovic has triumphed in Paris, Melbourne, New York and Wimbledon at a canter, despatching the second seeds - Andy Murray and Federer - every time for the loss of just two sets.
Extend that period of time from 12 to 18 months and his trophy haul boasts an additional major, nine Masters 1000 titles and the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals.
The world No. 1 is a more prolific winner of those 'big titles' - as they are collectively referred to by the game’s governing body - than anyone else.
Djokovic triumphs, on average, every 3.15 tournaments.
Nadal, meanwhile, does so every 3.5, while Federer - who is now just one in front of Djokovic at the top of that list with 47 - has a strike rate of 4.3.
The Swiss master has a more comfortable lead when it comes to majors, though, boasting five more than the current master’s haul of 12.
Federer’s 17 slams are proof of his genius, longevity and desire to keep winning.
But only the supporters who have voted him the ATP’s fans’ favourite for every season since 2003 would argue that many of those have been more easily accrued than Nadal or Djokovic’s.
That is intended not as revisionism, but rather an honest assessment of Mark Philippoussis, Marcos Baghdatis and Fernando Gonzalez‘s standing in the sport.
Marat Safin, Leyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Robin Soderling were fine players, too, but never reached the levels of the Big Four.
In finals against them, Federer has defeated Murray three times, Nadal twice and Djokovic once.
Significantly, though, only those against the Brit came after 2007.
Of Nadal’s 14 slams, meanwhile, five have been clinched against the Swiss, with three coming over the Serbian.
A stellar record, certainly, but less so when compared to the subject of this piece.
Since beating an unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win his first major at the Australian Open in 2008, Djokovic's subsequent 11 have all come against his nearest rivals.
Murray has been defeated five times, with Nadal and Federer suffering three losses each.
That relentlessness against the game's greatest players, again, is decisive.
Djokovic is balletic, brilliant and - in the opinion of this writer, anyway - the best ever.
One last thing: Andy Murray could have served better against Djokovic on Sunday, while his dejection during sets two and three was curious for a player who is usually able to fire himself up readily.
But the tournament still represents a triumph for him and should his nemesis not complete a clean sweep, then Murray will be poised to add to his own haul of prizes this year.
That is the least his talent and dedication deserves.