A few years ago, the only topic of conversation in men's tennis was the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. And even that wasn't particularly interesting for a variety of reasons. It wasn't a major rivalry because the two like each other too much. They were both dominant on different surfaces - Nadal on clay and Federer on grass. Things really only seemed to get exciting in the big matches on hard courts. Insert: Novak Djokovic.
This Serbian brings a different dimension to the elite level of men's tennis. Djokovic has transformed himself from being a talented player with work ethic and other mental weaknesses, into a confident player with the ability to hit any shot on any surface. No one ever questioned his talent or his shot-making skills. People doubted him because of his tendency to withdraw from matches due to mysterious injuries or just mail in his performance once he would trail. I think he's dealt with that in the easiest way you can - don't trail in matches.
With his win Monday, Djokovic brought his 2011 record to 64-2, which is absurd. His only two losses of the season have come at the hands of Roger Federer and Andy Murray, two of the top players in the game. He won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and now the U.S. Open in 2011 - along with SEVEN other tournaments. Before losing to Federer in the semifinals of the French Open, Djokovic had a 43 match winning streak. His play this season has been nothing short of dominant. He even has a chance to finish the season with the best record in the modern era - John McEnroe went 82-3 in 1984 but only won two major championships.
The craziest thing to me about Novak Djokovic is he seems to now be entering his prime. At 24, this is his time to shine. Federer is on the downside of his career. Nadal has trouble staying healthy with his violent and aggressive style of play. And Djokovic now seems to be in Rafa's head. While Andy Murray seems to be the new Andy Roddick - big game but can't finish in the majors. Djokovic is the most complete player in tennis. He is the model young players should be using to perfect their strokes. Great server. Beautiful ground strokes. Amazing returner of serves. And solid around the net. If he can stay healthy, he has all the talent to win many more major championships.
Before, opponents used to think they can get in The Joker's head. Now, he blocks out any of the distractions and can't hear the criticism. Maybe he can't hear it because he's too busy polishing his championship trophies.