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Novak Djokovic is Back!

Posted on July 15, 2018 by Dean Hybl
It was a long road back for Novak Djokovic to claim the 2018 Wimbledon title.

It was a long road back for Novak Djokovic to claim the 2018 Wimbledon title.

In the sports world it is interesting how two years can feel like a lifetime. It was only two years ago that Novak Djokovic had entered Wimbledon as the first men’s player in nearly 50 years to hold all four tennis major titles at the same, yet, much has transpired in the tennis world from that moment until Djokovic finally hoisted another major trophy with a three set win over Kevin Anderson at the 2018 Wimbledon.

Initially, the stunning third round loss by Djokovic to Sam Querry at the 2016 Wimbledon looked like just a blimp on the radar. Djokovic solidified his place as the number one player in the world by reaching the finals at the U.S. Open, though he lost in four sets to Stan Wawrinka.

What no one could have predicted at the time was that not only would Djokovic not win another major for nearly two years, but after making the finals in 19 of the previous 25 majors would not get past the quarterfinals in six straight majors and would fall out of the top 20 in the world rankings.

After losing in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open and quarterfinals of both the French Open and Wimbledon, Djokovic missed the 2017 U.S. Open due to an elbow injury. He reached the fourth round of the 2018 Australian Open, but after the tournament underwent elbow surgery.

It was a good sign that he was able to return for the 2018 French Open, but a four set loss to unranked Marco Cecchinato gave new question as to whether Djokovic would ever return to his previous form.

When Djokovic held all four major titles entering the 2016 Wimbledon not only had he done something previously done only by Rod Laver in the open era, but he was beginning to make a case for himself as the greatest player of his era, perhaps even ahead of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

However, over the past two years not only did Djokovic struggle, but Nadal and Federer both had a resurgence.

After combining for only one major title between 2014 and 2016 (Nadal winning 2014 French Open), Nadal and Federer split the four majors in 2017 (Federer won Australian and Wimbledon and Nadal claimed French and U.S. Open). They then began 2018 with Federer repeating at the Australian Open for his 20th Grand Slam and Nadal winning the French Open for his 17th.

Though Djokovic’s win at the 2018 Wimbledon breaks that streak and gives him 13 major titles, the 31-year-old now has much more work to do if he hopes to significantly narrow the gap between his titles and those of his two rivals.

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By defeating Nadal in a dramatic five set semifinal at Wimbledon and then claiming the title, Djokovic has certainly signaled that he is ready to resume his quest to be considered at the same level as Nadal and Federer.

It certainly is still yet to be seen if he is totally back to the dominating level that saw him win six majors and reach nine finals between 2014 and 2016. However, in his post-match interview, Djokovic said that though it was hard to compare, he felt he was fully back and perhaps playing even better than during his peak.

If that is true and Djokovic is able to maintain his play at the highest level without additional injuries, he could have three or four more years of top quality opportunities to close the gap on his rivals.

In addition, his next major title will tie him with Pete Sampras at 14 majors.

The added incentive of now having a son that he wants to provide the opportunity to see his dad win championships (the way Federer has done in recent years) makes it likely that Djokovic is positioning himself for another run at tennis dominance.

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