He has been stealing a march on his long-time rival since 2011, but 2021 is perhaps the year when Novak Djokovic has hurt Roger Federer and his legacy the most?
The evidence is certainly growing, with Djokovic enjoying a stunningly dominant year while an injured Federer feels like he is just starting to slip from the tennis consciousness.
At the start of the year, Djokovic took the coveted most weeks at world number one record from Federer, and he has held it too. Djokovic has an astounding 337 weeks atop the ATP rankings – 27 more weeks than the also seriously impressive 310 weeks amassed by Federer.
Djokovic then managed to do what Federer has been unable to do despite multiple attempts – achieve the Double Career Grand Slam with his victory at Roland Garros. Novak is now the only player to have won all four majors at least twice.
Finally, although Novak started the year with 17 Slams to Roger’s 20, with his 6th Wimbledon title, the Serb drew level with the Swiss.
Now into the Quarter Finals of the US Open, Djokovic has the chance to not only surpass Federer in perhaps the most coveted record of them all by winning his 21st Major, but to do what no man has been able to since 1969 – achieve the Calendar-Year Grand Slam. That would surely end the GOAT debate. Or would it?
Federer’s diehard fans refuse to believe it’s over, and reasonably so. After all, the Swiss ace has not retired and has stated that he is keen to come back to the tour in 2022 following his third knee surgery.
Many avid and casual tennis fans also argue that Federer’s ‘effortless’ style of play, his appeal across the globe, and his suave and sophisticated off-court style make him the greatest of all time.
There is no denying that Federer is tops when it comes to popularity. He is also the first tennis player to amass more than $1billion through sponsorship deals and endorsements over the past two decades.
That is a serious amount of money, and testimony to the fact that Roger’s popularity knows no bounds. He has certainly done a huge amount to make the sport so popular. Isn’t that enough?
Djokovic’s fans – the fiercely loyal Nolefam – beg to differ. Their compelling argument is that the amount of prize money amassed is more important than sponsorship deals, and Djokovic is the leader in that department with a whopping $152million won through tournament victories.
Tennis is about winning tournaments rather than sponsorship deals, after all? Federer has, by comparison, earned an almost as impressive $130million.
The truth of the matter, of course, is that there are still some chapters to be written.
If anyone can storm back after a long injury lay-off to add to his enviable collection of glittering trophies and titles, it’s Roger Federer.
If anyone will take him – and his adoring crowds – on to create more history of his own, it’s Novak Djokovic.
We’re here for it – whichever way it goes.
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