LONDON – Maybe when the fans start serenading Novak Djokovic in a Centre Court love-in it will be time for the Serb to call it a day.
When he starts receiving the same adoration reserved almost exclusively for Roger Federer in Sunday’s epic Wimbledon final, maybe his resolve will soften, his hunger for the fight diminish, his love of “sticking it to them” fade.
“Hopefully, in five years’ time I can be hearing the same chants,” the 32-year-old Serb said following a five-set win over Federer which sealed a fifth Wimbledon title and 16th Grand Slam crown.
Sunday’s triumph, in which he saved two match points and soaked up 94 winners off the Federer racket before clawing his way over the line in the longest Wimbledon singles final, confirmed Djokovic as the ultimate tennis anti-hero.
Apart from those in his box, it seemed the entire crowd were rooting for Federer. They even booed him near the end when he angrily whacked a court-side microphone.
He had the last laugh.
Sheer bloody-mindedness, as well as outrageous talent, is the reason Federer, Rafa Nadal and Djokovic, aged almost 38, 33 and 32 respectively, remain out of reach for their pursuers and the reason they share 54 Grand Slam titles, including the last 11.
But while Federer paints the court with strokes of magic and the swashbuckling Nadal plays tennis like a superhero, Djokovic is the master of attrition, winning by a thousand cuts.
No matter that he is arguably the best returner the game has ever seen, is the best athlete and has an engaging personality, there is only so much love to go around.
For now Djokovic will not care, and if anything will use a perceived lack of fanfare for his incredible feats as fuel to keep collecting Grand Slam titles and move past Federer and Nadal to the top of the all-time list.
“Whether I’m going to be able to do it or not, I don’t know. I mean, I’m not really looking at age as a restriction of any kind for me at least,” Djokovic said on Sunday.
“It just depends how long I’m going to play. It depends not only on myself, it depends on circumstances in life,” the father of two added.