Is Novak Djokovic on the verge of achieving invincibility?
Novak Djokovic came, saw and conquered his favourite Grand Slam, and hoisted his 15th Grand Slam title at the recently concluded 2019 Australian Open. This was the Serb's record-breaking 7th title in Melbourne, which he achieved whilst dropping just two sets in the entire tournament.
His flawless tennis in the semifinals and the finals showed us a glimpse of his invincibility and the greatness he's threatening to achieve in 2019.
Djokovic, who was ranked 22nd in May 2018 following his surgery after the 2018 Australian Open, has made an astounding comeback to say the least. He has won the last three Grand Slam titles without much competition from the other side of the net.
Djokovic had been suffering from a career-threatening elbow injury since 2016, which escalated massively during the Australian Open last year and resulted in his loss at the Round of 16 stage. He then resorted to an elbow surgery to free himself of any pain and save his career, so that he could resume showcasing the brand of tennis that had won him his 12 Grand Slam titles until then.
He had a tough claycourt season in which he could not proceed beyond the quarterfinals in any tournament, and his ranking slid to No. 18 by the end of Roland Garros 2018.
The resurgence began in the grasscourt season, wherein he made the finals at the Queen's Club event before losing to Marin Cilic in a hard-fought match. Wimbledon marked his return to form, and his battle against Rafael Nadal was the second longest semifinal match in the history of the tournament.
That match was a big turning point in Djokovic's comeback. The momentum he gained en-route to the win against Nadal changed him as a player completely, and brought back his lost confidence and self-belief.
Djokovic hasn't looked back since, going on to claim the next two Grand Slams that came his way. His straight-sets demolition of Kevin Anderson in the Wimbledon final was the start of his new brand of exciting and ruthless tennis.
The World No. 1 won the semifinals and finals of his next two Grand Slams in straight sets too, leaving his opponents gasping.
Djokovic played the entire Australian Open in a manner that sent out signals of absolute invincibility to tennis fans across the globe. He was virtually untested throughout the tournament, which shows the power, grit and precision that Djokovic has imbibed into his game, taking his tennis to the next level.
The Serb is just five Grand Slam titles shy of equaling the great Roger Federer's tally of 20 Grand Slam titles, provided the Swiss superstar does not win any more titles himself. Djokovic is also one French Open win away from completing a second 'Novak Slam', which is holding all the four Majors at the same time.
Several tennis experts are even predicting a Calendar Grand Slam for Djokovic in 2019, which is not difficult to imagine provided his ruthless and attacking brand of tennis keeps going strong and his health and fitness remain top-notch.
Beating the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, at the upcoming French Open will be the biggest test for Djokovic. But he can draw confidence from the fact that he was the last man to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, back in 2015.
A win in Paris would propel Djokovic's confidence sky-high. His belief to retain Wimbledon and the US Open will also gain a tremendous boost, as he tries to turn his Calendar Grand Slam dream into reality.
New age tennis stars such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev seem to have a long way to go before they can seriously challenge Djokovic at the Grand Slams. This means that apart from Nadal and Federer, who also seems to be in the last leg of his career, there is no real competition for the Serb.
If Djokovic achieves the unprecedented Calendar Grand Slam, he will have surpassed Nadal's tally of 17 Grand Slam titles. He will also be just three wins away from overtaking Federer and achieving the record of the most Grand Slam titles.
The man who is believed to have the best return in the history of tennis, has also developed an amazing backhand, which now is at par or even more dangerous than his thunderous forehand. Djokovic's astonishing skills could be seen in the final of the Australian Open, where Nadal's strategy of testing Djokovic's forehand proved to be disastrous right from the start of the game.
The number of unforced errors have also reduced drastically from Djokovic's game, marking the biggest improvement in his game since last year. He made a total of just 15 unforced errors in the semifinals and the finals of the Australian Open combined.
That sort of discipline and precision is going to be very hard to beat for any of his opponents in the upcoming Grand Slams. Unless a chink in his game is found, Djokovic will just keep rolling over his opponents for a long time.
The 31-year-old's tenacity and energy add a lot of value to tennis, and it will take something really special from any of his rivals to upstage him at this stage of his career.
Djokovic is already a modern-day great. Now, with his apparent invulnerability, he is bound to achieve even greater heights and establish himself as one of the biggest legends to have played the sport.
Federer's record of 20 Grand Slam titles is under serious threat, and it seems just matter of time before Djokovic gets there. The Serb's health and fitness will determine how far he goes and how much he achieves at the end of his career, but with age on his side he is expected to win many more Grand Slam and ATP titles.