The newly crowned men’s singles champion of the 2015 U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic, will end the year ranked No. 1 for the fourth time. The points he has earned are far and away more than any other number-one player has accumulated since the ATP began its tracking in 1973.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to know I will end the year at No. 1 again,” Djokovic told the ATP. “This is what we fight for since January 1st. We still have a few tournaments left though, and I look forward to competing in Beijing, Shanghai, Paris and London.”
Roger Federer cannot say the same thing. He may end the year at number-two, but it’s not assured given the number of tournaments he will play this fall and especially since losing to Novak in the final, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
“Lost too many times in finals,” Federer admitted to the press. “But at the same time I did win my tournaments, the ones I was supposed to. Year’s not over yet. I usually do have strong finishes. I hope I can do that again.”
The gap in ranking points between these two champions, and they are both champions regardless of which one hoisted the bigger trophy yesterday, reveals the utter dominance Djokovic has on the game. He’s accumulated 16,145 points as of today, which is 6,740 points higher than Federer’s. Winning a Grand Slam earns 2000 points, which means Djokovic is at least 3 slams in the plus column.
“As a father and a husband, experiencing different variety of things in my life, it’s completely different approach to tennis today,” Novak said.
This U. S. Open final was his fourth major final of the year, a feat Serena Williams did not duplicate although had been expected to. Djokovic joins two other players from The Open Era, which began in 1968, that have also advanced to all four finals in one calendar year — Rod Laver and Roger Federer. Djokovic has also advanced to 17 of the last 21 major finals, although he had not won in New York since 2011. The last time he and Roger clashed in the men’s singles Open final was 2007, which Federer won.
Their match Sunday was intense, a fight. Federer was a bundle of nerves at first and was broken early. Djokovic took a nasty spill minutes later, which lead him to lose that advantage. The crowds, too, were decidedly partisan. Federer had a home court advantage in that department, which is common no matter where he plays.
Djokovic’s victory, then, considering the hostility thrown at him, further spotlights his abilities to concentrate, recover point by point, and preserver. Many would have floundered in his shoes.
“There was a lot of support for Roger, there was some for me,” Djokovic began. “I think it’s logical to expect that a great player and a champion like Roger has the majority of the support anywhere I play him. I would say super majority of places around the world are going to give him that support.”
Djokovic desperately would like the love Roger embraces around the world. In a recent New York Times feature, Novak admitted the love scales are lopsided. Earlier in his career he retired from at least a half-dozen matches from little provocation. His parents traveled with him then and alienated people who sat nearby. They picked on opponents, provoking one outburst from Federer in Monte Carlo that remains tennis lore — “Be quiet.” Not many die-hard tennis fans will forget the incident in New York when Djokovic dissed Andy Roddick on Ashe stadium, drawing a deafening barrage of boos. And as recently as this year’s Australian Open, ESPN commentators, journalists plus tennis fans lashed out at Djokovic for his dramatic acts during the final against Andy Murray.
“Was a bit of gamesmanship,” Chris Fowler said.
“Mind games,” Darrin Cahill added.
People forget slowly, if at all. They hold grudges to make themselves right about their favorite or not-so-favorite sport personality.
“And to receive the crowd support that I did receive,” Federer said. “I don’t consider that normal. They kept me going.”
But no matter the boisterous ovations and jeers hurtled at Novak last night, his tennis spoke louder. That matters more, especially if you can compartmentalize. Djokovic ran down more balls, especially ones at the far reaches of the court. He forced Federer to extend rallies, which he prefers not to do. He’s a quick-hit player. Djokovic also rattled Federer. That was obvious from the get-go; the first game lasted over five minutes. And after all was said and done, his brazen game could not rectify the missed opportunities that might have arrested Djokovic’s baseline genius. Federer was 4 for 23 on break chances. A dismal stat that’s far away from acceptable.
“I had my chances on my racquet,” Federer began. “I should never been down in the score in the way I was. But Novak did a great job fending them off, and, you know, all of that.”
“All of that” is Djokovic. He won his 10th Grand Slam yesterday and his second U.S. Open. He is young enough and good enough to, perhaps, surpass Federer’s all-time record of 17 majors. Djokovic will have to stay healthy. With his regime of yoga and meditation plus a diet that’s about as clear as a floor, he could stay at the top of the pile for years to come. And, he’ll rest easy in that rarified air by winning slams — he won three of the four this year.
Federer might have gotten the best of Djokovic in Cincinnati, the only ATP Masters 1000 he has not won, but he beat Federer twice this year in major finals: Wimbledon and the U. S. Open. Those are the glorious wins chuck-full of ranking points. They matter the most.
So like it or not, Novak Djokovic is here to stay even if Federer is more adored.