Novak Djokovic: From imitating opponents to decimating them

Updated: Sep 15, 2015, 19:52 PM IST

Before he started making life miserable for world-class opponents, Novak Djokovic was known for his on-field imitations of tennis legends. From Rafael Nadal to Roger Federer, from Andy Roddick to Lleyton Hewitt, Djokovic was often seen entertaining the crowd with his sharp observations. Even Maria Sharapova was not spared.

But it has been a different story in the last five years. Djokovic, who during the initial phases of his career found it impossible to battle through a five-setter, has dismantled the best in the business in the most epic, longest Grand Slam matches of late.

His emergence as a top player led to end of the extremely popular Nadal-Federer rivalry. While the Spaniard has been at the receiving end (remember Australian Open 2012 final?) in epic five-setters, in the last few years, Federer too has failed to find flaws in the Serbian's game.

From moving on to a heavier racket, to getting a new coach in Stefan Edberg, to recently have innovated a tricky SABR (Sneak Attack By Federer) shot, the Swiss maestro has done it all.

At 34, not many have the desire to continue playing. But Federer, undoubtedly the greatest player of all time, refuses to hang his boots.

After Federer's near perfect show at the All England club, his legion of fans once again saw a ray of hope of him winning another Major, which couldn't materialize since he was up against Djokovic in final.

Likewise, with the help of his SABR shot, Federer got the better of Djokovic in the Cincinati final tune-up event for US Open. He played flawless tennis and while many believed US Open 2015 was his best chance to win another major, Djokovic once again showed why is he the World No. 1 player.

The interesting part here is, Stanislas Wawrinka seems to be the only player who can trouble Djokovic on a regular basis. But Federer rarely struggles against his compatriot, whom he thrashed 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 in the semis at Flushing Meadows. But when it comes to facing Djokovic, Federer can't seem to cross the finish line. Had it not been for Djokovic, Federer would have certainly added more trophies to his cabinet since he lost to the Serb in Wimbledon 2014 final, Wimbledon 2015 final and now US Open final.

On the other hand, with each Grand Slam, Djokovic is only getting better and better. He won three Grand Slams this year and became the only player after Federer and Rod Laver to have appeared in the final of all the Grand Slams in a calendar year.

Djokovic's gluten-free diet is no more a secret. His extraordinary defensive skills is a threat to any opponent and his elasticity on the court often seems implausible to the naked eye. At a time when his contemporaries are finding it difficult to match the standards they have set in the past, this man is in a different zone altogether.

Slowly and steadily, Djokovic has realized that he has the potential to humiliate opponents, not by imitating them on court, but by winning matches against them with the racquet.

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