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Pete Sampras believes Novak Djokovic could be No. 1 for years

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Novak Djokovic swept past Rafael Nadal in straight sets in Monte Carlo.

Novak Djokovic swept past Rafael Nadal in straight sets in Monte Carlo.

Novak Djokovic has sat atop the ATP for the better part of the last year and a half and Pete Sampras believes he could stay there for the next five years.

“I do [think Djokovic can remain No. 1 for years]. I was thinking about that when he won Monte Carlo,” Sampras told TENNIS.com in a conference call with the media to promote his doubles partnership with John McEnroe in an exhibition match against Tommy Haas and Ivan Lendl at the second annual Greenbrier Champions Tennis Classic, September 21-22. “He could stay No. 1 for quite a while, five or six years in a row. Realistically, if he stays healthy, he could very well do it.”

Sampras’ comments seem to echo the general sentiment around the tennis world after Djokovic emphatically ended Rafael Nadal’s 46-match winning streak in Monte Carlo last weekend. Djokovic defeated the Spaniard 6-2, 7-6 (1) to win his eighth different ATP Masters 1000 title (Djokovic only needs Cincinnati to complete the set). The loss was Nadal’s first at the tournament since 2003 and ended his historic quest for a ninth straight Monte Carlo title.

But did the audacious streak-stopping numerology work to artificially inflate the significance of Djokovic’s win? Monte Carlo was not the first time Djokovic beat Nadal in a clay-court final. Most notably, Djokovic beat Nadal in Madrid and Rome during his record-setting 2011 season. Those results, part of a year in which Djokovic went 6-0 against Nadal in finals, was the signal of Djokovic’s greatness.

As Peter Bodo wrote at Tennis.com, it seems people were inclined to dismiss Djokovic’s pure talent when he broke through in 2008, and even when he had his dominant 2011 season, all the discussion was about gluten-free diets, Davis Cup confidence and mental head games with Rafa, as explanations for his results. There was simply a reluctance to just throw your hands up and say, “The guy is just this good.” Now, two years on, Djokovic has shown the longevity and consistency to allay any concerns that his wins were just a flash in the pan. In fact, it feels like it’s just a matter of time until he completes his career Slam by winning the French Open, whether it’s during Nadal’s tenure or after.

So Sampras is probably right. There’s no reason to think that Djokovic won’t sit atop the men’s game for the next few years, with the occasional tug-o-war with Andy Murray over rankings and Slams. But that’s not because he stopped Nadal at Rafa’s favorite tournament in Monte Carlo. It’s because the fact that he did shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

  • Published On Apr 24, 2013
  • 8 comments
    Party_Gator
    Party_Gator

    Nobody can stay on top for very long who plays as hard as Novak, Murray, or Rafa.   They jam brakes so hard they are destroying each other.   Roger might outlast them because he goes easier on the brakes.

    shelley
    shelley

    The memes that the tennis media come up with at times astound me. For some reason 2011 has become all-important while 2012 has just been conveniently forgotten because it doesn't fit in with their goofy theories. Yes, Djokovic beat Rafa on clay twice in 2011. Ahem...Rafa beat Djokovic on clay THREE times in 2012.

     

    For some reason, Rafa's accomplishments are always dismissed and downplayed. Rafa beats Roger regularly? Meh, it's just a bad match up. Rafa beat Novak three times in 2012? Meh, Novak's grandfather died, or it rained, or something, so we'll just ignore that.

     

    If, and it's a big IF, Djokovic can begin to compile records like Nadal alrady has in the past 5 or 6 years, then of course it'll be fair to rave about his greatness. Until then, take a deep breath and wait and see what happens.  And give Rafa a little bit of credit along the way too.

     

    MatthewNeiger
    MatthewNeiger

    I can't say I disagree.  Both Fed and Rafa strengths (both offensive and defensive) are so large that they can hide small isolated weaknesses (in fact their games are to some extent predicated on that basis), but I've never seen a more balanced, complete player than Nole.  The thing that impressed me most about 2011 was that he was dismissing opponents _easily_, running through them 2 and 1, rather than grinding.  Since then, he's regressed a little bit and oftens seems to grind unnecessarily, and that can have a cumulative effect.  That is the only potential problem I see.

    IdaAnnaTaylor
    IdaAnnaTaylor

     @shelley

     Get used to it.  It happens to all the greats.  Has Djoker been dismissed sometimes?  Sure.  Has Nadal?  Sure.  Has Federer?  Sure.  There's always someone to take you down a notch.

    qwery122
    qwery122

     @shelley Lol, then arent you forgetting 2011. I think the point is that yes 2011 may have been unusual. And Rafa is likely to give tough competition in clay. Can he in hard courts. Nothing at the moment speaks of that. And fact is 2013, Nole defeated Nadal

     

    Noone is denying Rafa three crowns in 2012. But overall, when you compare all courts, since Djokovic's resurgence its definitely not that easy to put Rafa on top. 

    Although I do disagree with the author that murray will be troubliung djokovic with ranking. I think Murray will be like Berdych is federer, he troubles djokovic, but unlikely that he will top Rafa in rankings. There is that... champion in Rafa and Nole, thats not there in Murray, not yet.

    IdaAnnaTaylor
    IdaAnnaTaylor

     @MatthewNeiger

     Djoker is very, very solid.  No doubt.  But Federer is by far the most complete player the game has seen. 

    ktlowsingapore
    ktlowsingapore

     @MatthewNeiger

     I agree that his victories are harder to come by these days (in 2013) than in 2011.  And yes Nole has the most balanced, or most complete game.  But it's also the most taxing on his body.  Why does he not dominate like he did in 2011?  Because 1) I see that he's a little less hungrier than he was; perhaps, and  2) all the top 10 players keep getting better and better, and figuring out how to play him.  But in the big contests, he stays very focused. If he stays healthy it's hard to wrestle the #1 title from him.

     

    chrisford1
    chrisford1

    Tough call. Both Nole and Rafa became "complete players" and winning on all surfaces by age 23, the same age that "the complete player" Federer finally assembled his game, 1st started winning, and came to people's attention.

    Both Rafa and Nole had attention before age 23 and because of that, we watched more closely as they worked on their all-surface games.

    I would call Nole a complete player past just the surfaces - now he is as mentally tough as Rafa, he is a world class athlete, like Rafa. He has no weaknesses in his skillset. Just areas he can improve on what is already "good enough" that players cannot go and attack it. Yes, Djokovic can improve his already good serve, he can try to be as skilled as Rafa is on clay, and though he already won Wimbledon...work on his grass skills. And we may see Rafa, another continuous improvement machine, become competitive again with Nole and Murray on hardourts and grass.

     

    Federer is in his twilight. He might have a few surprises left, but his accomplishments are clear. We really have to wait until the careers of Djokovic and Nadal are at an endpoint to see how all 3 fared - Nole is 6 years younger, Rafa 5..and they have lots left to put in the books..