Novak Djokovic becomes fifth player to reach 1,000 match wins
Viktor Troicki first encountered Novak Djokovic on a tennis court. He recalled blanking Djokovic 9-0 in an under-10 event in Belgrade.
Troicki’s favorite memory of his close friend also came on court, about 15 years later in the pro ranks. Djokovic, in the infancy of a career-altering season, turned the tables by dispatching his compatriot 6-0, 6-1 in Indian Wells in 2011. The serenity of the California desert contrasted with NATO bombs Djokovic and his family evaded in the Serbian capital in 1999.
“He kicked my ass, and at the net I was furious,” Troicki, now 11 months into retirement, told ATPTour.com. “I even broke my racquet into two pieces. I was coming up to the net to congratulate him. He smiled and told me, ‘Great match, you played very well.’ He was obviously joking. He made me smile and laugh about it, and it was something good friends do.
“We played a lot of matches, and I didn’t have too much success against him,” Troicki chuckled.
But Troicki isn’t alone in experiencing defeat at the hands of the 37-time ATP Masters 1000 champion, who today becomes just the fifth man in the Open Era to reach 1,000 match wins.
When asked by ATPTour.com for his initial thoughts on Djokovic achieving the extremely rare milestone, colorful commentator Robbie Koenig began with, “No-vakking — if you can start with that word — way!”
“It’s mind boggling what he has done, and the type of opposition he has had to do it against, in the (Roger) Federer-(Rafael) Nadal era,” continued the five-time ATP Tour doubles winner from South Africa.
It added to Djokovic’s extensive, distinguished list of records, such as, from 2015-2016, becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to claim four consecutive majors and the first in the Open Era to bag each of the majors at least twice.
If not keeping track, those feats completed at the French Open marked his 730th and 961st wins.
No man has held the No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking longer (369 weeks) or completed the Career Golden Masters (winning all nine Masters 1000 tournaments), which, for good measure, he has done twice. That includes winning the ‘Sunshine Double’ (capturing Indian Wells and Miami in the same year) four times. And let’s not forget his five titles at the Nitto ATP Finals.
Djokovic joined fellow GOAT candidates Federer and Nadal in tallying 1,000 victories. But before the emergence of the all-conquering Big Three, it hadn’t been done in the men’s game since Ivan Lendl in 1992. Jimmy Connors, a rival of Lendl’s, became the founding and only other member of the select club in 1984.
That Djokovic sits in the same class as Connors and Lendl is appropriate. Connors possessed a two-handed backhand and returns lauded by different generations, with Djokovic ascending to the same lofty heights.
In 2018 at the Nitto ATP Finals, John Isner, second only to Ivo Karlovic in career aces, rated Djokovic as the “No. 1 and No. 2 and No. 3” top returners he has ever played.
More than one shot is needed to enter the GOAT conversation, but a contender for Djokovic’s trademark stroke would be his backhand down the line on the backfoot — either during a baseline exchange or as a passing shot.
Indeed, the backhand drew special praise from Federer on the eve of their Wimbledon thriller in 2019.
“If I think of Novak, one thing that jumps out at me, is his jump back and to the left,” said Federer, edged out in five sets two days later. “How he’s able to defend on that side, which I think has won him numerous matches and trophies. He does that better than anybody.”