Chris Almeida: We're here in the United States on championship Sunday, and on the other side of the world guess what happened? Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open. Who could have seen this coming? Poor Stefanos Tsitsipas made another valiant effort, maybe a little bit less valiant than last time, but it was not even close to enough. He lost in straight sets. 3-6, 6-7, 6-7. Can you fault him, though? Nobody has managed to beat Djokovic at this tournament in a long time. And you didn't have a lot of confidence that he was going to be the guy. He wasn't.
So, the match isn't really the notable thing here. We've got to talk about records and boy, does it look like Novak Djokovic is going to shatter every single one of them. He has 22 majors now—as many as Rafa Nadal and two more than Roger Federer. He is the only active and healthy player out of the three. It doesn't really seem like any of the younger players on tour are going to be able to stop him. So, and I say this with all seriousness: you have to be thinking 30-plus majors is a possibility. When's the next time he's going to lose, especially if Nadal is not healthy at the French Open, which he very well might not be?
Jon Wertheim: It's death taxes and Djokovic winning in Australia. This is 10 finals and he's never lost a final. He's 35 years old and he lost one set and that was against the qualifier where he just went away for half an hour. But to me the the point is: who's going to challenge this guy from below? I mean, here's my stat of the day: Djokovic was born in 1987. So he's gonna be 36 this year. And he's he's the youngest active Australian Open champion.
JW: So where is the challenge going to come from? He beat Andrey Rublev, Tommy Paul and Tsitsipas, three young top 20 players, and didn't drop a set. So if Roger Federer is retired and will never catch Novak Djokovic, if Rafa Nadal has one more French Open in him, realistically Djokovic is going to retire with the most majors. So, to me, the question is what is the rest of the field going to do about this guy? Because he is eligible for the senior tour and yet I'm not sure if he's ever been at a higher peak of power. Which of the other 99 players in the top 100 are going to challenge this guy.
CA: Well, we've been asking ourselves that question for a while. And it seems like there's less of an answer than there was two years ago, three years ago. You come out of 2021 and you think Daniil Medvedev might be that guy. He's got that unicorn blood in him. He's got the size and speed and he beats Djokovic in a major final and...then he has a very weird 2022 and doesn't seem to be the same player that he was 15 months ago. Tsitsipas made a pretty good effort last time he played Djokovic in a major final. He was up two sets at the 2021 French Open. But now, in his second attempt, he, frankly, looked worse than last time. And time is supposed to be working to his advantage in this matchup! Djokovic is just on a different level.
JW: This is just someone who has these survival instincts and this mental toughness and this ability to compartmentalize. I don't know how much of this, too, is about of accumulated blows. You know, this was the 10th-straight straight time Tsitsipas had lost to Djokovic. Does he think he can win, now, when he steps on the court?
But this is just extraordinary. Djokovic won his first Australian Open 15 years ago. And he dropped fewer sets at age 35 than he did at age 20.
CA: Yeah, this is just hilarious at this point. I wasn't even in high school when he won that tournament. George W. Bush was still president then.
JW: So, it's clear that he's going to win this GOAT derby. So now the question becomes: where does this thing end? You said 30. That doesn't sound so far fetched. Also, somebody raised this point to me: in some ways, has he built in extra time? He missed two majors last year. Yeah, has he has he built in some extra time by not playing a full schedule by accident or design? He's played seven tournaments since Wimbledon.
CA: I mean, at this point, I don't even know why he bothers with anything but the majors.
JW: He doesn't need the money. He doesn't need the ranking points. He doesn't need the time away from his family. I think it would just be about rhythm.
CA: Makes sense. Anyway, yeah, the sky is really the limit here. I wasn't joking about 30 majors. Could he even go beyond that? Sure, why not. There's just no challengers right now. He's way better than everybody else.
JW: He's better. He's more precise. He's no less durable. And I just think when you beat a guy 10 times out of 10 over four years, those subsequent matches don't just start with a clean slate. That lodges in your head.
CA: This is what people would say about Federer back in his day. That he'd beaten them before he stepped on the court. But then, around 2007 or so, Nadal and Djokovic really showed that they didn't have that mindset. And I think that opened the door for other players to have some confidence and step up against Federer. But nobody from the younger generation seems to have good energy against Djokovic.
JW: That's a great point. Nadal tailored his game around this Federer takedown. This guy's number one and I've got to figure out what I have to do to defeat him and Djokovic tailored his game around I'm gonna go after these two guys who are older than I am. And Djokovic hasn't faced that kind of focused, determined challenge from anybody younger than he is.