Fi­nally, Djokovic and Wil­liams rightly on top

SPORTS TALK WITH JOSEPH ROMANOS

Central Leader - - SPORT -

It’s taken time, but the ten- nis world fi­nally seems com­fort­able with Novak Djokovic and Ser­ena Wil­liams be­ing the No 1 play­ers.

Djokovic leads the men’s rank­ings by a huge mar­gin, his tally of 13,845 points tow­er­ing over No 2-ranked Roger Fed­erer’s 9415.

Wil­liams is even more dom­i­nant among the women, with 11,291 points, way ahead of No 2-ranked Pe­tra Kvi­tova’s 6870.

Djokovic, 28, turned pro in 2003 and has kept build­ing his game un­til now he is vir­tu­ally im­preg­nable.

His re­turn of ser­vice, back­hand and court cov­er­age are out­stand­ing.

He has won eight grand slam ti­tles, as did Ivan Lendl, An­dre Agassi and Jimmy Con­nors, and will surely in­crease that num­ber con­sid­er­ably. The proud Serb, who led his coun­try to the 2010 Davis Cup crown, has been at the top of the rank­ings for 150 weeks and is clos­ing in on John McEn­roe’s tally of 170 weeks on top.

Once past McEn­roe, he’ll be fifth on the all-time list.

Ini­tially, Djokovic was not widely liked.

He tended to throw matches, claim in­jury when the go­ing got tough and celebrate vic­to­ries rather ar­ro­gantly.

But he has tem­pered the an­tics and is now ap­plauded as a good sport and a fine am­bas­sador for ten­nis – a No 1 to be proud of. Un­be­liev­ably, Wil­liams, 34 in Septem­ber, has been a pro since 1995. She has won 20 grand slam sin­gles crowns, be­hind only Mar­garet Court 24, and St­effi Graf 22, and is clos­ing on them fast.

In ad­di­tion, Wil­liams and her sis­ter Venus have formed a su­perb dou­bles com­bi­na­tion, win­ning all 13 grand slam fi­nals they’ve con­tested.

Though she was world No 1 back in 2002 and shortly af­ter held all four grand slam crowns, Wil­liams squan­dered her abil­ity.

With her ser­vice – the best ever in women’s ten­nis – and power, she should have been vir­tu­ally un­beat­able, but for the best part of a decade was al­most a part-time player, some­times ar­riv­ing at even ma­jor tour­na­ments out of shape. She was not helped by se­ri­ous in­juries and ill­ness, but some of her prob­lems were of her own mak­ing.

Wil­liams rather too ob­vi­ously en­joyed be­ing in the spotlight, and sel­dom both­ered to even men­tion her op­po­nents.

She fell foul of the crowds at the French and US Opens.

More re­cently, per­haps as she has be­come more aware of the sands of time, she has ap­plied her­self thor­oughly and has been the world No 1 since Fe­bru­ary 2013.

Over­all she has topped the rank­ings for 244 weeks and will soon pass Chris Evert’s 260-week to­tal, and move to third all-time.

Wil­liams is a more gra­cious win­ner these days, much quicker to praise an op­po­nent.

Djokovic has lived through an in­cred­i­ble era of men’s ten­nis, with greats Fed­erer and Rafael Nadal as ma­jor ri­vals.

As that pair fade he seems to have the field more to him­self bar­ring a freak per­for­mance, such as Stan Wawrinka’s at the re­cent French Open.

Wil­liams has records at her mercy be­cause the cur­rent women’s game is es­pe­cially weak.

Djokovic and Wil­liams will be heavy favourites at Wim­ble­don this month.

Any­thing can hap­pen in ten­nis, es­pe­cially when it’s played on grass, but it would be sur­pris­ing if they didn’t both add grand slam cups to their al­ready crammed tro­phy cab­i­nets.

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