July 11, 2021

21 in '21?

I really didn't think we'd get here so quickly.

With Rafael Nadal edging out Novak Djokovic last year at the French Open and pulling ahead of him in the Grand Slam race by three titles at the end of last year, I thought for sure we'd have a little longer to wait before Nole would catch up.

I mean, Djokovic would probably win in Melbourne, but Rafa would surely dominate in Paris again, right? Claim a 21st Major title there and take the lead all by himself? Force the world #1 to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open just to get within one big trophy of the top spot? The soonest Novak could draw even would be next year. Right? Right?!

Well after Nole's stunning victory at Roland Garros, one that featured one of the most spectacular wins of his career over Nadal, all that math went out the window. And today, on Championship Sunday at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic is writing history on his own terms.

His win over Matteo Berrettini in the final didn't come easy. The Italian seventh seed put up one hell of a fight, breaking Djokovic when he was trying to serve out the first set and taking the early lead with a win in the tiebreak. He got down two breaks in the second, but stopped Djokovic's first attempt to serve that one out, too. But ultimately it was the two-time defending champion -- the man who'd already won five titles here total -- whose experience and extreme talent won out.

The title, of course, puts him neck-and-neck(-and-neck) with Rafa and Roger Federer with twenty Grand Slam trophies each. But there's no question he's been the most dominant player over the last ten years, winning nineteen of them since 2011, compared to eleven for Nadal and "just" four for Fed. As he said after tying things up today, these two rivals have pushed him to be a better, stronger, smarter player, and they're all going to keep striving to be the first to hit blackjack.

And there's every chance in the world it could happen for one of them in New York -- very and, honestly, most likely Djokovic, who could become the first man since Rod Laver to win the calendar year Grand Slam. He said himself he could envision that happening, and the way he's playing, that's not just hubris.

After all, we've all got 20-20-20 vision now and are seeing things very clearly. This #GOAT 🐐 contender may have only just tied things up, but in the race for #21, he's got the lead all to himself.

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