An overwhelming salute: Novak Djokovic’s journey to 1,000 wins | Novak 1000 | ATP . round

Novak Djokovic becomes the fifth player to win 1,000 matches

Ravi Oppa

Viktor Troicki faced Novak Djokovic for the first time on a tennis court. He referred to Djokovic’s 9-0 elimination in the under-10 event in Belgrade.

Troicki’s favorite memory of his close friend also surfaced on court, after about 15 years in the pro ranks. Djokovic, at the start of a career-altering season, turned the tables when he sent his countryman 6-0, 6-1 at Indian Wells in 2011. The calm of the California desert contrasted with the NATO bombshells Djokovic and his family in Serbia, the capital, in 1999.

“He kicked my ass, and I was grumpy at the curling,” Troicki, now 11 months in retirement, told ATPTour.com. “I even broke my racket in two. I was coming to the net to congratulate him. He smiled and said to me, ‘Great match, played very well.’ He was obviously joking. He made me smile and laugh about it, and it was something good friends would do.”

“We’ve played a lot of matches, and I haven’t had much success against him,” Troicki laughed.

But Troicki isn’t alone in suffering defeat at the hands of the 37-time ATP Masters 1000 champion, who is today the fifth player in the Open Era to reach 1000.

When asked by ATPTour.com about his initial thoughts on Djokovic achieving this extremely rare feat, colorist Robbie Koenig began with “No-vakking – if you can start with that word – way!”

“It is mind-boggling what he did, and the kind of opposition he had to do against it, under (Roger) Federer- (Rafael) Nadal,” the five-time ATP doubles champion from South Africa continued.

He added to Djokovic’s extensive and distinguished roster of records as, from 2015-2016, he became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to claim four majors in a row and the first in the open era to bag each of the majors at least twice.

If not kept on track, those feats accomplished at the French Open recorded his 730 and 961 wins.

No one has ever achieved a Pepperstone ATP #1 rating longer (369 weeks) or completed a Career Golden Masters title (winning all nine 1000 Masters tournaments), which they did twice. That includes winning the ‘Sunshine Double’ (taking out Indian Wells and Miami in the same year) four times. And let’s not forget his five Nitto ATP Finals titles.

Djokovic joined fellow GOAT nominees Federer and Nadal to score 1,000 wins. But before the Big Three came into being, it hadn’t happened in the men’s game since Evan Lendl in 1992. Lendl’s rival Jimmy Connors became the only founding member of the select club in 1984.

That Djokovic sits in the same category as Connors and Lendl is a good fit. Connors had a two-handed backhand and came back hailed by different generations, and Djokovic has climbed to the same heights.

In the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, John Isner, who finished second to Ivo Karlovic in his football career, ranked Djokovic as “No. 1, No. 2, No. 3” for the best returns he’s ever played.

More than one shot is needed to get into the GOAT conversation, but a contender for Djokovic’s trademark hit would be his backhand on the line in the back – either during a base exchange or as a passing tackle.

In fact, the backhand was particularly praised by Federer on the eve of their thriller Wimbledon in 2019.

“If I think of Novak, the only thing that jumps out at me, is his jump back and to the left,” said Federer, who lost in five sets two days later. “How he is able to defend in this aspect, which I think has won many matches and titles. He does it better than anyone else.”