Watching the Joker carve up the next generation with relative ease at the Aussie Open one realizes this may be the best tennis player who has ever lived. His ability to cover the corners, his return of serve off the biggest servers, his brilliant tactical switches, make him unique.
On Sunday he hardly even bothered to mine Tsitsipas’ vulnerable backhand, he left that as a threat, but went there a few times at key points. But time and again he set up the Greek for running forehands and broke him down there.
No player has his patterns, no player that one watches does the unexpected more consistently….going up the line or cross court where one would expect the opposite.
He is now tied with Nadal, but he could easily have been four ahead but for outside interference. He was the clear favorite to win the Aussie Open and US Open last year, and demonstrated that by winning Wimbledon. He was also the clear favorite at the US Open a few years back when he was disqualified for accidentally hitting the hysterical lines-woman.
If that scenario occurred he would have 3 more Majors and Rafa would have one less, putting him 4 ahead.
Disliked for being opinionated and perhaps for being Serbian, he is clearly brighter than most of his peers and with an impish sense of humor. But the anti Joker mobs at each tournament still don’t get that yet another strength is his ability to play better when the crowd is against him.
Mostly what they don’t get is watching him play is a privilege.