Tennis' iron man needs no introduction. His name is Novak Djokovic.
The young Serb arrived on the scene at a time when a dominant Roger Federer and a ruthless Rafael Nadal were crushing opponents, having swept 11 consecutive Grand Slams (2005 French Open to 2007 US Open).
Djokovic announced his arrival by breaking Federer from 0-40 5-6 down on his opponent's serve in the first set of the 2007 Coupe Rogers, en route to a third-set tiebreak win over the then-dominant World No. 1. It was the 20-year-old Serb's first win in five attempts over Federer.
A few weeks later the script turned as Djokovic, in his first Major final, failed to convert three consecutive set points on serve at 6-5 40-0 in the first set before going down in straight sets to Federer.
To prove that his run to the US Open final was no flash in the pan, Djokovic dethroned two-time defending champion Federer in straight sets in the Australian Open semifinals en route to lifting his first Grand Slam title.
Against Nadal, Djokovic had his first success in his third attempt, beating the Spaniard in straight sets in the Miami quarterfinals en route to winning his first Masters 1000 title. But after six matches in his rivalry against Nadal, Djokovic had only one win - the same as was the case in his rivalry against Federer.
Djokovic bided his time before seizing his moment under the spotlight. In a stunning start to the 2011 season, the Serb won titles at the Australian Open and Dubai before beating Nadal in four successive Masters 1000 finals - Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome - to arrive at the French Open without a defeat all season.
Facing Federer in the semifinals, Djokovic was a win away from tying John McEnroe's record of 42 consecutive wins (1984), but fell in four sets. Weeks later, Djokovic reached his first final at Wimbledon to be assured of becoming the new World No. 1. The Serb celebrated the feat with a four-set victory over Nadal.
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Djokovic has displayed tremendous grit and mental resilience over the course of his career. The Serb saved consecutive match points on Federer's serve in the fifth set of his US Open semifinal in 2011, before going on to beat Nadal in the final to become the first player since Federer (2007) to win three Slams in a year. The win over Federer at the tournament was his second in two years from match points down.
In the longest-ever Grand Slam final in the Open Era, Djokovic outlasted Nadal 7-5 in the fifth set of a 5 hour 53 minute slugfest to win his fifth Grand Slam title at the 2012 Australian Open. Six years later, on the grass courts of Wimbledon, Djokovic beat Nadal in a 5 hour 16 minute semifinal en route to lifting his 4th title at the grasscourt Major.
Fast forward a year, and Djokovic was saving two consecutive championship points on Federer's serve in the fifth. Centre Court descended into stunned silence at the incredible missed opportunity of their favorite player, before Djokovic also escaped a break point at 11-11 to win in a historic first-ever Wimbledon fifth-set tiebreak.
Among many of his numerous records in the sport, Djokovic's stunning 2015 season stands out. In one of the best, if not the best-ever, season by a player, Djokovic won the Australian Open, lost to StanWawrinka in a four-set French Open final, and beat Federer in four-set finals at Wimbledon and the US Open.
During the season, Djokovic became the first player to reach a record seven Masters 1000 finals (from eight appearances), winning a record six Masters 1000 titles during the season. The Serb closed out the season with a straight sets defeat of Federer to win his fourth straight ATP Finals title.
One of three players to play 50 Masters 1000 finals and record over 350 Masters 1000 match wins, Djokovic's 34 Masters 1000 titles are bettered only by Nadal (35). In the Grand Slam arena, the Serb with 16 titles is only behind Federer (20) and Nadal (19) in the all-time leaderboard.
After failing to end the 2019 season with a record-tying sixth year-end World No. 1 ranking, Djokovic has the following three milestones to look forward to next year:
#1 Most weeks at No. 1
Swiss legend Roger Federer holds the record for most weeks at No. 1 (310). Djokovic's 275 weeks at the helm of men's tennis is the third-best of all time, behind only Federer and Pete Sampras (286).
Had Djokovic managed to stave off Nadal in the race for the 2019 year-end No. 1, the Serb would have gone past Sampras on 13 January 2020, and Federer's mark on 6 June later that year.
In the first edition of the ATP Cup, where both Nadal and Djokovic would be playing, the winner could get a purse of 750 ranking points. Djokovic would next turn his attention to the Australian Open, where he could concede more ground to top-ranked Nadal if he doesn't defend his title or earn more points than the Spaniard.
Djokovic's first realistic opportunity to take a shot at Nadal's World No. 1 ranking would arrive at the first two Masters 1000 events of the year. If the Serb takes the Sunshine double (Indian Wells - Miami), he would have a realistic chance of usurping the No. 1 ranking from Nadal.
Assuming Djokovic defends all his titles in the remainder of the season, the Serb could overtake Federer's record of 310 weeks at No. 1 sometime in October or November 2020.