#360view: Can Djokovic sustain his world-beating form?

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  • Top of the world: Novak Djokovic.

    You’d run out of superlatives to describe Novak Djokovic at the moment. The word ‘dominant’ simply does not suffice. His 2011 season – that was dominant. Djokovic has taken that several steps forward straight into outrageous territory.

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    Making 13 finals in a row out of 14 events entered in total, winning nine titles (so far) including three grand slams and five Masters 1000s, amassing a 73-5 win-loss tally… and the season is not even over yet.

    Djokovic’s list of achievements in 2015 is reminiscent of Roger Federer’s holy 2006 season – a year where the Swiss scooped 12 titles, including three majors and four Masters 1000 crowns, registered a 92-5 win-loss record, made 11 finals in a row and won the year-end Masters Cup.

    One common theme between Djokovic this year and Federer nine years ago is how untouchable they seem. Then why does it feel Djokovic is just a tad more dominant in comparison? The simple answer is: Rafael Nadal.

    While Federer’s 2006 was out of this world, the Swiss still lost to Nadal four times that season – three times on clay and once on the hardcourts of Dubai.

    Federer was in superhuman form yet Nadal was repeatedly pulling one of his feet back onto human ground. Djokovic however – barring one significant beatdown by Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final – really is a class apart.

    Yes, he lost two finals to Federer in Dubai and Cincinnati (along with losses to Andy Murray and Ivo Karlovic), but when it matters the most, Djokovic delivers.

    There is a Hulk-like manner in the way he’s been winning. His roars emerge from a place so deep inside him, they are the sound of a man out with something to prove – not just to the world, but to himself. He’s set such a high standard for himself and he keeps wanting to surpass it.

    Growing up in a war-torn country, inheriting the work ethics of his late coach and mentor Jelena Gencic, breaking through as a player with talent but some physical weaknesses, and fighting against two legends of the game in Federer and Nadal – all of these have contributed to the way Djokovic operates today.

    Not many predicted he would reach double digits in slams when he won his first in 2008. He now has 10 majors, just four behind Nadal and seven behind Federer. It’s hard to imagine he won’t catch at least one of them.

    Level-wise, he is now a man of no weaknesses. He’s better than everyone else and is actually still improving.

    The question of course is: how long can he sustain this? He himself doesn’t know and while it doesn’t feel like it, things change in tennis fairly quickly.

    Less than two years ago, Nadal was wrapping up one of his best-ever seasons – he won two slams in 2013, made 14 finals in 17 events and claimed 10 titles in total. He was No. 1 in the world up until Djokovic dethroned him in June last year. 

    Sixteen months later and people are (unwisely) writing Nadal off for good. Granted Djokovic does not have Nadal’s physical struggles but as the Serb continues to remind us – and himself – you can never take anything for granted.

    With the essence of his motivation always stemming from within, Djokovic must find a way to maintain that. If he does, he could literally achieve anything he could wish for.