Novak Djokovic eclipsed Rafael Nadal as the most successful male tennis player of the modern era by clinching his 23rd Grand Slam crown after defeating Casper Ruud in the French Open final. The Serb had to dig deep to produce his best tennis to overcome the talented Norwegian in straight sets.
Is Men’s Tennis Heading for a Seismic Change?
Djokovic surpassed Nadal’s 22 crowns with triumph and could now eye the calendar slam, winning all four Grand Slams in a single year. There are offers from platforms like OddsChecker to find the best deals and prices for Djokovic to win Wimbledon, the next slam on the agenda for the Serb, and then the US Open. Given his dominance, the 36-year-old looks in good shape to press home his case to complete the sweep of all four slams. In the Open era, only Rod Laver won all four slams in the men’s game in a single season, while Margaret Court and Steffi Graf achieved the feat in the women’s game.
It is the only achievement he failed to complete during his illustrious career. He fell agonizingly short in 2021 when he reached all four Grand Slam finals, only to lose out to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open. Djokovic also reached all four finals in 2015, although on that occasion, he lost in the final of the French Open to Nadal. As a result, Djokovic has one more objective to complete before heading off into the sunset to join Roger Federer and potentially Nadal, whose career appears to be all but over.
Can Djokovic Achieve The Calendar Slam?
Yes, Djokovic certainly can. The Serb still has the psychological edge over the next generation of stars. Although there have been breakthroughs in the past from Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz, either Djokovic or Nadal has been in place over the last two years to ensure that the old guard’s dominance of the slams has continued.
In the French Open, both Alcaraz and Ruud had their opportunities against Djokovic. Alcaraz leveled their semi-final clash at 1-1 and appeared well in the contest before he got severe cramps, and the Serb clinched the final two sets 6-1, 6-1. Ruud took a 3-0 lead early in the first set in the French Open final, but he allowed Djokovic back into the game and then lost a tie-breaker.
Djokovic quickly took command of the second set before edging out his opponent in the third to secure the crown. Ruud is not the first player to have lost key points against Djokovic and certainly will not be the last. Nick Kyrgios suffered a similar fate at Wimbledon against the Serb, highlighting the difficulty players of the next generation have faced against the dominant champion.
Alcaraz has proven that he is a class player by reaching world number one at 19 and winning the US Open last season. He will be the biggest obstacle for Djokovic to overcome, although it will be difficult to see a challenge forthcoming at Wimbledon. Out of the current crop of players on the ATP Tour, there is no clear contender to challenge Djokovic on grass. So, he could be on course of a historic eighth Wimbledon title before turning his attention to the US Open.
That is where Alcaraz, Ruud, Medvedev, and others can attempt to knock him off his perch. Djokovic was banned from Flushing Meadows last season due to his vaccination status, but he will return with a point to prove, just as he did at the Australian Open. The path is seemingly clear for him to make history.
If Djokovic does win the calendar slam, he may choose to walk away. He would have 25 Grand Slam titles, which is a nice round number to end on. Nadal is unlikely to return, given his injury problems, and it is difficult to see another player matching that level of success for a long time. The 36-year-old has avoided the major fitness problems that the other leading players of his generation suffered as Federer, Nadal, and Andy Murray have all battled injuries to remain on the court and have either succumbed or are far fallen from their peak play.
Djokovic could decide to end his career, leaving the men’s game wide open for the first time in 20 years. The game has been dominated by three players for almost two decades, with rare successes for Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka to break up the monotony. But, once Djokovic is out of the way, there will be a scramble from the competing players for the major titles after a longstanding drought. Alcaraz is seemingly the heir apparent, but it will be tough to replicate the success of Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal, and the Spaniard has already had a couple of injury problems to halt his progress.
Medvedev did appear at one stage that he was ready to take on the mantle, but since his defeat to Nadal in the 2022 Australian Open final, the Russian has taken a backward step in his form. Ruud has been impressive in reaching two Grand Slam finals and has the game to win a few major crowns, but he will have to beat a top player in a final at some stage to get over the hump.
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev have been around for a while, but have not fulfilled their potential. Speaking of unfulfilled potential, Kyrgios might be the most talented player not named Djokovic playing on the ATP Tour, but he has failed to adjust to the mental demands of the game. The USA could be primed for a return to relevance in the men’s game as Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, and Tommy Paul all have talent. Italy’s Jannik Sinner and Matteo Berrettini are also quality players but have found their way forward, checked by the dominance of the big three.
Men’s tennis is just waiting for the final two retirements of Nadal and Djokovic before the game will change dramatically for the first time in 20 years. An era of unpredictability is on the cards and will provide a much-needed shake-up to the ATP Tour.