In an era when professional tennis is more competitive than ever, Novak Djokovic's accumulation of records has been nothing short of astounding.
The world No 1 for a record number of total weeks, Djokovic is the only player in ATP Tour history to win all of the ATP's big titles, comprising the four Grand Slams, nine Masters 1000s and the ATP Finals. At the French Open last month, he became the first male player in the Open era to win all four majors more than once.
But there is one statistic against which all great tennis players are measured and Djokovic has now pulled level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time list of Grand Slam titles.
It has long felt an inevitability that Djokovic would join his “Big Three” rivals at the top of the majors charts and he did so at an even 20 after winning his third straight — and sixth overall — Wimbledon title on Sunday.
The concern now for Federer and Nadal is just how many more Djokovic will go on to eclipse them by. Federer, who turns 40 next month, has already defied logic to win major titles into his late 30s but after two recent knee surgeries and a talented, and fitter, younger generation now operating at the highest level, it will take something miraculous for the Swiss great to add too many more.
Nadal is only a year older than Djokovic but there may as well be decades between when taking into consideration the Spaniard's enduring fitness battles. Nadal will always remain a serious threat at the French Open, where 13 of his 20 Slam titles have been won, and while he has twice won the US Open in the past four editions, it's been more than 10 years since he tasted success at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
Ominously for Federer and Nadal, and indeed the rest of the ATP Tour, Djokovic is at the peak of his powers and has no plans to wind down anytime soon.
“In the last couple of years, for me, age is just a number. I don't feel that I'm old or anything like that,” Djokovic said following his win over Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final. “Obviously things are a bit different, and you have to adjust and adapt to the phases you go through in your career. But I feel like I'm probably the most complete that I've been as a player right now in my entire career.”
The holder of the 2021 Australian Open, French Open, and now Wimbledon titles, more history beckons for Djokovic if he can go on and complete the calendar Grand Slam by winning the US Open in September. Rod Laver, in 1969, is the only other man to win all four majors in the same season during the Open era.
Novak Djokovic's historic 20 Grand Slam titles — in pictures
Djokovic could even set himself up for an unprecedented golden Grand Slam — only ever achieved by Steffi Graf — by winning the Olympics title before his bid for a fourth trophy in New York. However, while there is no peer on the ATP Tour for the relentless Serb, the coronavirus pandemic could yet prevent that particular piece of history after Tokyo 2020 organisers announced further restrictions, including the absence of fans.
“It’s not great news,” Djokovic said. “That was really disappointing to hear. I also hear that there's going to be a lot of restrictions within the Village. Possibly, you would not be able to see other athletes perform live. I'll have to think about it. My plan was always to go. But right now it's 50-50.”
Whether or not he completes any sort of Grand Slam this year, there appears little doubt that, when the “Big Three” have all eventually hung up their racquets, it will be Djokovic who will stand above the rest.
That at least is the way it's all trending. Since winning his second major at the 2011 Australian Open — essentially when he elevated himself to the level of Federer and Nadal — Djokovic has won 19 grand slams from 42 tournaments for a remarkable conversion rate of more than 45 per cent.
“I consider myself best and I believe that I am the best, otherwise I wouldn't be talking confidently about winning slams and making history,” Djokovic said. “Whether I'm the greatest of all time or not, I leave that debate to other people.”
Eventually, his haul of grand slam titles will settle the debate on his behalf.