Novak Djokovic is the king of Melbourne Park, but his empire ends where the plexicushion court meets the first row of spectators.
The World No. 1’s popularity has been a prickly subject for the entire Australian summer of tennis — a rollercoaster ride from the moment he arrived in the country to complete two weeks of quarantine in an Adelaide hotel.
Through all the drama, dislike, accusations of devious tactics and divisive views on the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing remains constant. Novak Djokovic is a tennis force unlike anything Australia has ever seen before.
As the dust settles on his annihilation of Russian Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night in the men’s final, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Serbian’s claim to the throne in tennis’ great debate is stronger than all his rivals’.
Australia does not agree.
Novak Djokovic is 18-0 beyond the quarter-finals at the Australian Open.Source:AFP
The 33-year-old’s ninth Australian Open crown has changed nothing in the eyes of Australia in the never-ending debate surrounding which of the big three — Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — is truly the greatest of all time.
In the eyes of Australia, it is Roger Federer, then daylight.
The Swiss ace has absolutely destroyed his two greatest rivals in a poll of more than 57,000 registered news.com.au readers, when asked ‘Who is the greatest player of all time’.
Djokovic’s only saving grace is that he has just usurped Nadal to rank second on the list.
Register in the poll below to see the full results of Federer’s landslide victory.
It only reinforces just how unloved Djokovic is — and how much he can feel it.
In a summer of cold responses from the Australian public, Djokovic failed to win public support when torched by Nick Kyrgios for being a “tool” over his so-called demands for better conditions for the tennis players doing hard lockdown in hotel quarantine. He was scorned and publicly accused of lying when taking a medical time out during his five-set thriller against Taylor Fritz.
Djokovic described it as “one of the most special wins in my life”. He said after the final on Sunday that he had torn a stomach muscle. He described the first grand slam of 2021 “one of the hardest tournaments I had”.
Djokovic had finally had enough after the public backlash and hit out at the “unfair” treatment he received compared to Federer.
“That’s like opening Pandora’s box,” he said of his portrayal, according to Serbian journalist Sasa Ozmo.
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“If we begin to discuss that, we won’t finish this evening. Presumably there are millions of different reasons.
“Truthfully, I have mostly made peace with it. I cannot say that it doesn’t sometimes get to me – of course an injustice or an unfair portrayal by the media affects me. I am a human being, I have emotions and naturally I don’t enjoy it.
“My mistakes are perhaps less forgiven in the public in comparison to other players and sports stars,” he said.
“Of course it hurts when baseless criticism is fired your way and when you’re treated differently, but in a way, that is the path I have chosen.”
Even with the numbers increasingly stacked in his favour, Djokovic cannot persuade an audience that fell in love with the grace and class that Federer carried in his march to 20 grand slam titles.
But the numbers don’t lie. It seems increasingly unlikely that someone from the ATP Tour’s next generation will stand up and stop Djokovic from surpassing Federer and Nadal’s haul of 20-majors. Djokovic stands with 18 slams to his name after Sunday’s win.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is the inconvenient truth.Source:AFP
When combining grand slam trophies with ATP Finals, ATP 1000 series events and Olympics, Djokovic has 59 titles compared to Nadal (56) and Federer (54).
He is also certain to pass Federer’s record of 310 career weeks at the top of the ATP Tour rankings after his win in Melbourne.
In head-to-head combat he is also the clear winner.
He is 29-27 with Nadal and 27-23 with Federer.
The last word in the debate belongs to comments made by Nadal years ago when asked about the GOAT rivalry.
“It’d be unfair to say that Federer isn’t the best I’ve ever played against because the titles and his track record prove that to be the case,” he said.
“But at a technical level, when Djokovic has been at the top of his game, I have to say that I’ve been up against an invincible player.”
Australia still does not agree.
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