Active Stocks
Wed Sep 27 2023 15:59:55
  1. Tata Steel share price
  2. 128.15 -0.54%
  1. HDFC Bank share price
  2. 1,527.2 -0.68%
  1. Tata Motors share price
  2. 620.4 0.1%
  1. NTPC share price
  2. 239.35 -0.35%
  1. Infosys share price
  2. 1,467.55 0.51%
Business News/ Sports / Novak Djokovic, Tennis’s Heavyweight Champion of the World

Novak Djokovic, Tennis’s Heavyweight Champion of the World


The 36-year-old legend knocks out Daniil Medvedev to win the U.S. Open—and a historic 24th major tournament title.

Novak Djokovic, top, looks at Daniil Medvedev after Medvedev tumbled to the hard court. Premium
Novak Djokovic, top, looks at Daniil Medvedev after Medvedev tumbled to the hard court.

Behold the allegedly aging Novak Djokovic, a U.S. Open champion again, creeping past what’s supposed to be his tennis-playing prime—whatever prime means in Djokovic’s outrageous, unprecedented career.

Evidence of his mortality exists, I swear. Djokovic is fast—but he’s not the fastest player in tennis. He’s powerful, but even he would tell you he’s never been the game’s most powerful. Djokovic is still capable of hitting eye-popping shots, but today there are flashier phenoms supplying wilder highlights.

Djokovic even gets tired. This I’ve seen with my own eyes—one of sports’s greatest endurance athletes, an extraterrestrial who once galloped through five-hour tennis epics, slumping over his racket as if he’s climbed eight flights with groceries. He did it a couple of times in Sunday’s final versus Daniil Medvedev, and you almost felt bad for the guy. He may be human after all.

I’m not convinced, however. Djokovic remains, at age 36, an absurdly complete, near-impossible-to-beat tennis wizard—likely the most complete, near-impossible-to-beat tennis wizard there’s ever been, modern or otherwise. His mental toughness is legendary. His game still lacks a clear weakness. Parts of his playing style (his forehand, his ability to shorten points at net) actually seem to be getting better.

As the era of the “Big Three" closes and tennis up-and-comers smell blood, Djokovic’s the tough old grizzly bear, pawing hungrily around the forest. Respect him from a distance. Meet him at your peril.

Djokovic proved it again Sunday, with a convincing 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, win over his friend Medvedev. I could try to sell you that this match felt closer than that score, that Medvedev played brilliantly at times, but whatever, nobody’s going to remember the fine print. Medvedev knows the accounting that matters: Djokovic won, again.

His crazy numbers keep rising. Djokovic now has won 24 major singles titles, the most-ever by a men’s player, two more than the injured Rafael Nadal, four more than the retired Roger Federer, and he’s tied with the women’s all-timer, Margaret Court. This U.S. Open title, his first since 2018, gives the Serbian right-hander three of this year’s four major titles, his only miss coming in a narrow epic at Wimbledon against the 20-year-old sensation Carlos Alcaraz.

What a shift in the mood. Until a few days ago, it felt like the Summer of Alcaraz. It finishes as another Season of Novak.

Medvedev did his best. He’d spoiled the hyped prospect of an Alcaraz-Djokovic final with a masterful unlocking of Alcaraz in the semis, frustrating the Spanish phenom like few opponents have. A tumbleweed of unorthodox strokes who swings like he’s got bats in the attic, Medvedev stunned Djokovic in the 2021 final when Djokovic had a calendar Grand Slam on the line. He may be a sharper player now—but the 27-year-old from Russia didn’t stand much of a chance Sunday, especially after Djokovic took a tiebreaker to win a second set that lasted 1 hour, 44 minutes.

That’s right. An hour and 44-minute set. If they’d gone the distance, Djokovic and Medvedev might have played until mid-October.

Instead, it went three. It felt over early in the third, when Medvedev tumbled to the hard court and theatrically laid on his back, staring skyward, while Djokovic wandered over to check on him. Both men played the moment for laughs, but it looked a little like a tennis parody of Neil Leifer’s indelible photo of Ali standing over Liston.

TKO Novak. Again.

The kids can’t believe they still have to deal with the champ. Can’t Djokovic do the customary thing and retire to a life of fatherhood, TV analysis, golf tournaments and reality show appearances?

“What are you doing here?" Medvedev teased Djokovic at the post match trophy ceremony. “Come on."

How long can Djokovic go? It’s uncharted territory now. He’s now the oldest winner of the U.S. Open, the World No. 1, all but certain to be the top seed next January in Australia, a major he has won 10 times. Djokovic joked (at least I think he joked) late Sunday that he’ll leave in “23, 24 years," but his coach Goran Ivanisevic says Djokovic has designs on playing the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles—a target that would keep him in the game a half decade longer and into his 40s.

Thirty majors? It seems possible at this rate. Novak Nation thinks he’d be at least at 25 or 26 if not for the rules against unvaccinated visitors that controversially kept Djokovic out of Australia and New York in 2022. (Speaking of which, seeing Djokovic commemorated at the Open by pharmaceutical sponsor Moderna’s “Moderna shot of the day" felt straight out of “Saturday Night Live.")

At an age and level of achievement when motivation wanes, Djokovic’s motivated. He’s lost rivals, but added new ones. In Alcaraz—and let’s add Medvedev, too—Djokovic has a pair of friendly nemeses to push his limits. Right now those three play like they’re on a separate spaceship from the rest of the men’s field, but hopefully others will level up. Nadal is planning to return from injury in 2024. Who wouldn’t want to see a little more Rafa-Nole?

Djokovic surely would. There’s a streak of gratitude running through him now—maybe it’s the Big Three’s finish and the fading of the Roger/Rafa shadow; maybe it’s the Covid contentiousness; maybe it’s the joy he feels being able to triumph in front of his growing children, now ages 6 and 9. Djokovic can’t resist the heel role on occasion—witness his mockery of Ben Shelton’s phone call celebration in the semis, poke the bear, get the claw—but he seems more comfortable with who he is, and less burdened by trying to win over the crowd.

Fans are fans and facts are facts. Medvedev and Alcaraz were kiddos when Djokovic won his first major in 2008, and here Djokovic is, a decade and a half later, with the sport in his thrall. He may not be the fastest or most powerful, but the heart is what matters now. Novak Djokovic’s still the grizzly in the forest—for now, and quite possibly, forever.

Write to Jason Gay at

"Exciting news! Mint is now on WhatsApp Channels 🚀 Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest financial insights!" Click here!

Next Story
Recommended For You
Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App