“I believe I can win the most Slams and break the record for longest No. 1.”
These were Novak Djokovic‘s comments last week on “In Depth With Graham Bensinger“. The World #1 expressed his biggest goals during the latter end of his career, the two biggest being the Grand Slam and weeks at #1 titles on the ATP Tour.
Confidence aside, it’s a very logical thought for Djokovic. He’s currently the #1 player in the world and, before the season was suspended, had a flawless record of 18-0 and had captured two titles (at the Australian Open and in Dubai).
In terms of Grand Slam titles, it’s going to be a matter of when, not if, he gets past Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most all-time. At the Australian Open this year, Nadal was outed in the quarterfinals by finalist Dominic Thiem and Federer was defeated by Djokovic in the semis. The Serbian lost only three sets in the entire tournament, two of which coming in the finals against Thiem.
Djokovic followed Australia with a dominating Dubai victory in which he only lost one set (in the semifinals to Gael Monfils). Had the season not been suspended, it’s very likely that his dominance would’ve continued into Paris, where he wouldn’t have been the favorite but would’ve had a great shot to beat Nadal on clay and claim the tournament.
With Wimbledon being canceled for the first time since 1945, it’s likely that it was Federer’s last real chance to get to 21 major titles. At almost 39 years old, he’s taken a step back over the last couple of years and hasn’t captured a major title since the 2018 Australian Open at a time when Djokovic wasn’t 100% healthy from his pre-existing elbow injury.
Nadal remains as the big threat to Djokovic over the next few years. After splitting major championships with two each last year (Nadal claiming his 12th Roland Garros and his 4th US Open), Nadal ended the year as World #1. Djokovic wasn’t far behind and quickly reclaimed the ranking following the Australian Open. While Federer ages, Nadal is still the favorite on clay and can give Djokovic a real run for his money on hard courts.
The big advantage over Nadal is Djokovic’s dominance on grass in the last few years. Djokovic has won two of the last three Wimbledon Championships and four of the last six, dating back to 2014. Nadal hasn’t won Wimbledon since 2010 and hasn’t appeared in the finals since 2011.
If the season had continued on, Djokovic could’ve taken both the Wimbledon Championships and the US Open, with a decent shot at taking Roland Garros and the calendar Grand Slam, as well. It wouldn’t have been that tall of an order for Djokovic due to him having one of the best seasons of his career.
Outside of the Federer and Nadal, the upcoming talents on Tour have had their moments and breakthroughs. Most notably is Dominic Thiem, who’s made the finals of 3 major tournaments(2018-2019 Roland Garros, 2020 Australian Open). It’s going to be a few years until he can consistently compete at the top level against Djokovic. The current World #3 is, along with Nadal, the top player on clay.
Djokovic is in a prime position to take the top spot in major championships won. He and Nadal will likely both overtake Federer at 20 in the next few years. It’s up to Djokovic’s future success against Nadal to see if he’ll end up finishing his career ahead of the Spaniard.
The record for most weeks at #1 is going to be broken very soon by Djokovic. Currently sitting 3rd all-time at 282 weeks, he the only other active player on the list above him is Federer, who has the most with 310 weeks. Although the rankings are currently frozen due to the Tour’s suspension, Djokovic can very easily take over Federer at the top of the list to achieve his second goal.
Federer doesn’t look like he’ll be able to get back to #1 in the world and will likely end his career at 310 weeks. Djokovic still has at least 4 years of prime tennis to be able to sit at #1 and with him only being 28 weeks behind, he could achieve this goal in the next few years, as well.
Nadal is the only threat to Djokovic’s consistent reign at #1, but outside of that, it’s going to be a cakewalk to overtake Federer at the top. With only 28 weeks separating the two, we could see him take the major championship and #1 records in the next 2-3 years.
After that, the GOAT debate on the ATP Tour will definitely change. The main cause for debate in support of Federer was his 20 major championships and his immense success at the #1 ranking. If Djokovic okertakes both, he’d be regarded as the best male tennis player ever. At the very least, he’d be the most successful and dominant.