Andy Murray dumped a cross-court backhand into the net. With the miss, Novak Djokovic won the point, and with it the game, the set, and the match. More importantly, he won the French Open championship. It was the title that had eluded Djokovic since he turned pro in 2003. It was also the final piece of the puzzle to a career Grand Slam. The Grand Slam includes the hard court tournaments of the Australian Open and the U.S. Open, the grass court tournament at Wimbledon, and the red clay at the French Open. Only seven other men in history have accomplished this feat. This alone moves him into the top tier of all-time greats. He continues to move up the list based on his twenty career Grand Slam finals, his twelve career Grand Slam titles, and his five year-end championships.
At the current moment, Roger Federer is considered the greatest tennis player in history. He has won seventeen Grand Slam titles in twenty-seven finals appearances. He holds the record for most weeks ranked number one in the world, and he has also won six year-end championships. Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras are right behind Federer. They both have won fourteen Grand Slam titles, but Sampras never won the French Open. Nadal on the other hand won the French Open a record nine times. It is clear that Djokovic belongs in this elite group, the Mount Rushmore of men’s tennis.
The scary thing is that Novak is nowhere close to being done. While Federer, Nadal, and Sampras all faded as their careers have gone on, Djokovic only seems to be getting stronger. He also has a major advantage in that no other player on tour right now offers much of a challenge to his throne. Andy Murray seems to be the only player with any chance of beating Djokovic right now, and Djokovic has still won twenty-four of thirty-four matches against him. The two have met seven times in Grand Slam finals, with Djokovic winning five. At his current pace, barring injuries of course, Djokovic could catch Federer’s record seventeen Grand Slam titles by the end of next season.
On the other side, one has to feel bad for Andy Murray. The British player has played in one of the toughest eras in tennis history. He entered the tour when Federer and Nadal were at their peak. Now he is being suppressed by Djokovic. Murray has advanced to ten Grand Slam finals, but has only won two of them. It would be tough to play against this generation of tennis players, and Murray has had to take his lumps because of it. He does have one highlight that only Nadal can match, and that is a gold medal in men’s singles at the Olympics. Murray won this in front of his home crowd at the 2012 London Olympics. Even if he never reaches the Grand Slam counts of the greatest players, he can always look back and say he won for his country on the ultimate stage in sports.
About the author
Ben Billman is currently a doctoral teaching assistant at the United States Sports Academy. He lives in Mobile, Alabama with his wife Jennifer and son Derrick. He is originally from Indiana, and therefore has a deep love for the game of basketball.