Novak Djokovic's Hunt for the Ages


Novak Djokovic's Hunt for the Ages

1-0: Djokovic d. Jeremy Chardy, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2. Novak begins his journey in Melbourne, as Chardy—perhaps—becomes the answer to a trivia question.

2-0: Djokovic d. Tiafoe, 6-3 6-7 (3) 7-6 (2) 6-3. "I want to give a hand to Frances for a great fight," said Djokovic. "It was a fantastic match.”

3-0: Djokovic d. Fritz, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2. It was a tough match for Djokovic in many ways: he suffered an injury to his midsection; he faced a barrage of difficult shots from his opponent; he played some of the match with fans, and some of it without, after the curfew.

But like all his other matches at the majors in 2021, he won.

4-0: Djokovic d. Raonic, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Djokovic earned his 12th consecutive win over the heavy-serving Canadian—and his 300th in Grand Slam competition.

5-0: Djokovic d. Zverev, 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (8). This 3:30 battle would portend a later Olympic match that went the German's way. But in Melbourne, the Serb saved 9 of 12 break points, including a set point at 5-6 in the fourth set.

6-0: Djokovic d. Aslan Karatsev, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The Russian's Cinderella run ended in the semifinals, giving Djokovic a chance to complete a fairytale ending in Australia.

7-0: Djokovic d. Daniil Medvedev, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. The Serb's Melbourne mastery continued, winning his ninth Australian Open and his 18th Grand Slam singles title. "A masterpiece," said Djokovic's coach, Goran Ivanisevic.

8-0: Djokovic d. Tennys Sandgren, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Novak began his French Open playing in the dark (at night, with no fans), but he lit up the scoresheet against the overmatched American.

9-0: Djokovic d. Pablo Cuevas, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Another talented clay-courter was no match for perhaps the most underrated clay-court player of all time.

10-0: Djokovic d. Ricardis Berankis, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1. The win earned Djokovic a 12th consecutive fourth-round appearance at Roland Garros, breaking a tie with Roger and Rafa.

11-0: Djokovic d. Lorenzo Musetti, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 (retired). The first of two comebacks from two sets down at Roland Garros, Musetti showed panache and power in Paris—until he was undone in a swift turnaround, aided by the 19-year-old's deteriorating fitness.

12-0: Djokovic d. Matteo Berrettini, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5.

With no fans in attendance, Djokovic needed to generate his own energy. That was no problem after he converted match point in this extremely competitive quarterfinal; the Serb let out a cathartic yell in victory.

13-0: Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Spellbinding through three sets, the competition was so brilliant that the French government permitted fans to stay at Court Philippe Chatrier for the conclusion once the 11 p.m. curfew had arrived.

14-0: Djokovic d. Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

After breaking Rafael Nadal's winning streak at Roland Garros, Djokovic consolidated with a title, but it was in doubt for some time. Playing his first Grand Slam final, Tsitsipas appeared to feel the pressure after an early surge, while Djokovic calmed down and closed the door.

15-0: Djokovic d. Jack Draper, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Djokovic dropped the very first set he played at Wimbledon—but the Brit's early foray only seemed to inspire the Serb going forward.

16-0: Djokovic d. Kevin Anderson, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. This rematch of the 2018 Wimbledon final likewise ended in straight sets, but that's about the only comparison to this lopsided second-rounder.

17-0: Djokovic d. Denis Kudla, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7). The Serb saved a set point to keep this match from potentially getting interesting.

With the win, Djokovic became the first man to win 75 matches at each of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

18-0: Djokovic d. Cristian Garin, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. The win brought Djokovic to his 10th quarterfinal in his last 11 Wimbledons.

19-0: Djokovic d. Marton Fucsovics, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The hard-hitting Hungarian was no match for Nole on this day.

20-0: Djokovic d. Denis Shapovalov, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5.

Novak has played closer matches in terms of sets this year, but from a game-by-game perspective, this semifinal is near the top of the most-competitive list. Almost nothing separated these two shotmakers.

21-0: Djokovic d. Matteo Berrettini, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. The win have Novak his 20th Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon.

“Winning Wimbledon was always the biggest dream of mind when I was a kid,” said Djokovic. “Standing with a sixth Wimbledon, it’s incredible.”

22-0: Djokovic d. Holger Rune, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-1.

Djokovic entered the US Open with 21 Grand Slam victories in 2021, and 20 Grand Slam singles titles. So not only can he complete a calendar-year Grand Slam in New York, but doing so would net him a a record-setting 21st major title.

23-0: Djokovic d. Tallon Griekspoor, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.

A drama-free win under the lights puts the superb Serb just five wins away from a record 21st career Grand Slam singles title, and the first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1969.

24-0: Djokovic d. Kei Nishikori, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. It was far from automatic. But world No. 1 Novak charged late to defeat Kei Nishikori for the 17th time in a row. His best statline may have been the 11 of 13 break points he faced against the inspired 2014 finalist.

25-0: Djokovic d. Jenson Brooksby, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. The 20-year-old American wild card has a game like no other, with two-handed volleys, funky slice and remarkable court coverage. He won the first set in a breeze, and won a 20-minute game in the second set.

But Brooksby also brought out some of the best in Djokovic, who problem-solved his way out of an entertaining and extremely tricky fourth-rounder.

26-0: Djokovic d. Matteo Berrettini, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. The world No. 1 was down a set, but it hardly mattered in the end. In a format he’s no doubt mastered, Novak got the better of the Italian in a four-setter for the third straight major.