Novak Djokovic, currently ranked number one in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals, is widely regarded as one of the greatest players to ever have played the game.
Born in Belgrade on 22nd May 1987, Djokovic began playing tennis at around about the age of four. His parents ran a fast food parlour at the mountain range of Kopaonik and it is there that a six-year-old Djokovic was spotted by Jelena Gencic. The former Yugoslav professional tennis and handball player compared the young Novak’s talent to that of a young Monica Seles, the top women’s professional whom she had also discovered as a child.
Gencic worked with Djokovic, helping to develop his talent, for six years before she arranged for him to move to Germany and train at the academy of Nikola Pilic. It was a move she felt would help him more as his rapid progression meant he required a higher level of competition.
In 2001, Djokovic had his first taste of the big stage when he was part of the Yugoslav national team that reached the final of the Junior Davis Cup. As a junior, he reached the Semi Final of the Australian Open in 2004 and had a win/loss record of 40 wins and 11 losses in singles and 23 wins with 6 losses in doubles.
Djokovic became a professional in 2003, mostly participating in Challenger and Futures tournaments before playing in his first tour-level tournament at Umag in 2004.
A first Grand Slam appearance came at the 2005 Australian Open, where he lost in the first round, and he broke into the world’s top 100 in the July of that year. Better performances followed when he reached the third round of both Wimbledon and the US Open as well as qualifying for two Masters Tour events. At the end of 2005, Djokovic had a singles ranking of 78.
Reaching the Quarter Final at the 2006 French Open saw Djokovic ranked inside the top 40 in the world for the first time. It wasn’t long before a first ATP Tour title was won, when he defeated Nicolas Massu in the Final of the Dutch Open at Amersfoort.
A second tour title, at the Moselle Open in Marseille in October 2006 took Djokovic up to 16th in the world rankings and that is where he stayed until the end of the season.
His rapid rise continued with a title at Adelaide to get 2007 off to a flyer and he followed that by reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. Being a losing finalist at Indian Wells and winning a first Masters Series title at Key Biscayne pushed Djokovic up into the ATP top ten and great things were on the horizon for the Serbian professional.
Shortly after, Djokovic reached his first Grand Slam Semi-Final, at the French Open and then made it two last-four appearances in a row at Wimbledon. Unfortunately, he lost the first and had to retire injured at one-set-all in the second.
The Rogers Cup in Montreal put Djokovic into the record books, when he defeated world number three Andy Roddick, #2 Rafael Nadal and #1 Roger Federer on his way to the title. That amazing performance made him the first player to beat the top three in the world in the same tournament since Boris Becker did it in 1994.
A first Grand Slam Final, at the US Open, followed and 2007 finished with Djokovic ranked third in the world. He had won five titles in the season and ended the year by being awarded the Golden Badge Award for Best Athlete in Serbia.
Djokovic spent the entire 2008 season as world number three, in a year that saw him beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win a first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. Another three titles followed that season, as well as reaching the Semi-Final of both the French and US Open and winning a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games. The year ended with an ATP Tour Finals title, when he beat Nikolay Davydenko in the Final.
The following year didn’t start great for the Serbian, losing in the first round of the Brisbane International before having to retire injured in the last eight of the Australian Open. Despite a poor start, Djokovic still won five titles and ended the year ranked third again.
In 2010, Djokovic only won two singles titles and reached the final of the US Open as he once again finished the season at number three in the rankings. He did form the spine of the Serbian national team, winning all seven of his singles rubbers as he guided his country to Davis Cup success.
Records were shattered in 2011, in a year that has gone down as one of the most successful singles campaigns in history. Djokovic won three Grand Slam titles, with only the French Open alluding him, and a record breaking five Masters 1000 titles as well as titles in Dubai and Belgrade.
Novak Reached world number one in July 2011 and was still there at the end of the season. A win/loss record of 70/6 and over $12m in prize money, an ATP Tour record, led to him being named ITF World Champion and ATP Player of the Year for 2011.
Another Australian Open title was won to start 2012 and many people predicted an even better year than the one before. It wasn’t to be but he still won six tour titles and reached the final of the French Open for the first time. He also won a second World Tour Finals title, beating Roger Federer in the Final.
Seven titles in 2013, including a fourth Australian Open success, couldn’t prevent him dropping to number two in the world rankings but he was back on top in July 2014. A second Wimbledon title was one of seven won in 2014, before another record breaking year in 2015.
The 2015 season was one that saw Djokovic reach 15 consecutive Finals, including all four Grand Slams, as he stayed atop the world rankings for the entire year. He won three Grand Slam titles, a record six of eight Masters 1000 titles and a fourth consecutive World Tour Finals title. $21.6m in prize money was a new record and he also accumulated the most ranking points ever achieved in a single season.
This year, 2016, Djokovic finally won the French Open at Roland Garros and in doing so became only the third player in history to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time. He also became the eighth player in history to achieve a career Grand Slam and is the first player to ever win over $100m in total career prize money.
He currently has enough ranking points that even if #2 Andy Murray and #3 Roger Federer added their points together, they still couldn’t knock him off his perch at the top of the rankings. He has six titles for the 2016 season so far and will no doubt add more.
At the time of writing this, Djokovic has been world number one for 103 consecutive weeks since July 2014 and a total of 204 weeks from his three separate spells atop the rankings overall. He has won 12 Grand Slam titles, five behind the record held by Roger Federer and has 65 career titles, putting him seventh in the open era.
Currently coached by Marian Vajda and six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker, Djokovic has a winning team behind him. He got married to his childhood sweetheart Jelena in July 2014 and they had their first child, Stefan, in October that year.
Novak Djokovic, affectionately known as Nole, is an exceptional all-court player that already holds several records in the sport. At just 29 years old, he still has plenty of years left in order to secure his place as the greatest tennis player of all time.