Aces with more to give
It’s taken time, but the tennis 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’s 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’s 24, and Steffi Graf’s 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.
She 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 fades, he seems to have the field more to himself, barring a freakish 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, especially on grass, but it would be surprising if they didn’t both add Grand Slam cups to their already crammed trophy cabinets.
Novak Djokovic, left and Serena Williams would have been tennis legends in any era.