Novak Djokovic has won 4 straight major titles, the first man to do so since Rod Laver did it in 1969. Starting Monday, he will set out to claim his 5th straight major, his 3rd straight Wimbledon crown, and nail down his bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam. Don Budge is the only man to ever win more than four Grand Slam’s in a row, and that happened back in 1938. So why does no one seem to care about what Novak Djokovic could possibly accomplish?
I should preface that question by saying no one seems to care outside of serious tennis circles. This lack of attention is puzzling when you consider American fans gravitate towards dominate athletes. From Jordan, to Tiger, to Lebron, the media attention and public fascination is boundless, but when it comes to tennis there may be a case of greatness fatigue. We’ve seen this kind of dominance before, when Federer seemingly won every time he stepped on the court, and Nadal every time he stepped on a clay court. There hasn’t been much parody in the sport over the last 15 years and Djokovic is the least “sexy” of these three champions. An endurance athlete who’s brutal consistency and return of serve are his greatest strengths, doesn’t make for must see TV.
Also, long gone are the days when Djokovic was considered one of the goofiest and quote worthy players on tour, opting for a far more diplomatic and measured approach with the media in recent years. The American media could forgive Djokovic for not being American, only that is, if there was an American, any American, on the men’s side that sparked some excitement. Federer captured the imagination with his beautiful play while Mr. All-American Andy Roddick was his main adversary for many years. The casual sports fan just doesn’t seem to have a reason to care about tennis when the narrative is so familiar and no American has a chance to make or disrupt history.
Whether or not you care if Djokovic can win five straight Grand Slam titles, you’d be crazy to pick against him on the Wimbledon grass this year. For one thing, he won’t have to face Roger Federer in the finals for the third straight year. The 7-time champ is on the same half of the draw as Novak, setting up a blockbuster semi-final match-up. Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are on the other half and are projected to face off in the other semifinal.
All four of these projected semifinalists will first have to overcome various tough tests in the form of top 15 ranked staples such as Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet. Much like we saw in the French Open, don’t be surprised if there’s an onslaught by the top young talent coming from a group that the ATP has coined the #NextCen. Names like Kyrgios, Fritz, Kokkinakis, Edmund, Coric, Zverev, and especially French Open semifinalist Dominic Thiem (who is already a tire above this crop of players), have a chance to make a name for themselves during the second week at Wimbledon.
However, the real story this year is The Djoker himself. Big names, young and old, will grab headlines from him here and there, but what Novak is doing is historic. It is tell-your-kids-about-it, once-in-a-lifetime historic. What Novak is working towards — wining 5 straight majors and holding all 4 in the same calendar year — should put him in the discussion for best ever. Please remember to enjoy the show.