And, so, the year finishes with three of the greatest men’s singles players finishing on 20-20-20. When 2021 began, Rafael Nadal had designs on moving ahead of Roger Federer but the real winner has been Novak Djokovic, who, despite losing the US Open, won three of the four Slams on offer. It’s the third time he has achieved this feat after 2011 and 2015. As much as Daniil Medvedev winning at Flushing Meadows was a breath of fresh air, the era of Djokovic lording over the rest isn’t over. Not yet anyway. When the new Grand Slam season begins in Australia (Covid restrictions notwithstanding), the Serb will again begin as the favourite if he is injury free. The World No. 1’s record in Melbourne shows that: He has played nine finals and won the entire lot. Also keep in mind he came to the US Open mentally exhausted, something he alluded to in his post-final press conference. One US Open trivia that’s been largely ignored is the mental and physical toll the calendar has on a player. By the time it comes around, most of them are nursing aches and pains and niggles. Sample this: There have been nine different men who have won the US Open since 2008. The corresponding figure in the other three Slams is four (Australian Open and French Open) and three (Wimbledon).
A well-rested—it won’t be a surprise if he shuts down his 2021 season now—well-healed 34-year-old is the frontrunner in 2022 too for any number of reasons. Free of the emotional baggage and the attention he had on him because of the history that was at stake, the Serb can virtually play freely. With question marks on both Federer and Nadal persisting and the next gen still struggling for consistency, Djokovic is the clear favourite to go past that mark of 20. And there is no question of whether he will have the incentive or the motivation to go for the record. Like all great players, he will want to be remembered for a landmark like this. And with the crowd finally on his side, the Serb may well set a new men’s record four months down the line.