All-conquering Djokovic stands alone among modern greats


For all his dominance of men's tennis in recent years, Novak Djokovic could be forgiven for feeling his stellar achievements have always been somewhat overshadowed by the success of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Victory over Andy Murray in the French Open final on Sunday earned Djokovic his 12th grand slam, putting him in a tie for fourth with Roy Emerson on the list of major winners.

All very impressive and worthy of fulsome praise, yet Nadal and Federer remain in front, at least for the moment, with the latter boasting an unparalleled haul of 17 slam crowns.

Even by finally completing a long-awaited career Grand Slam, with success on his 12th visit to Roland Garros, Djokovic was still merely following in the footsteps of the two players whose periods of supremacy preceded his own.

However, Djokovic has now accomplished one exceptional feat that neither Federer, Nadal nor any recent competitor can match.

Not since 1969, when the great Rod Laver beat Tony Roche in the final of the US Open, has one player held all four slam titles at once.

Regardless of whether Djokovic goes on to surpass Federer as the most prolific winner of his sport's premier events, a target he appears increasingly likely to reach, he now stands alone among modern-day players.

Consider the many superstars of men's tennis in the last 40 years.

Household names such as Connors, Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Wilander, Edberg, Becker, Agassi, Sampras, Federer and Nadal all enjoyed significant success - and the latter two may yet add to their honours roll.

Yet even at their respective peaks, not one of the aforementioned 11 could claim to have reigned supreme in the manner Djokovic now does.

Asked on Sunday whether he feels he has now stepped out from under the shadow of Federer and Nadal, the world number one said: "Well, I don't think it's on me to judge that.

"We're all unique in our own ways, and I have great respect for both of them ... who they are, first of all, and what they have achieved in their life. They mean a lot to the sport.

"They are great champions on and off the court, and because of the time they spent on the tour, they have lots of fans around the world and lots of support. It's wonderful to see.

"I'm just glad to be competing with them. That's all. I think all of us contribute something different."

Modest words, but a strong case can now be made for Djokovic being the best player of his era. Should he overhaul Federer's grand slam record, there is likely to be little debate.