How Novak Djokovic's default helps Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read
Novak Djokovic (pictured right) looking frustrated and Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal (pictured left together) playing doubles.
Novak Djokovic's (pictured right) disqualification from the US Open will affect his chances to surpass Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal's (pictured left together) Grand Slam tallies. (Getty Images)

It took a pandemic, Father Time and a freakish disqualification for Novak Djokovic but the big three's domination of grand slam tennis is finally over.

And the ramifications may be felt forever.

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Djokovic's spectacular exit from the US Open for hitting a line judge in the throat with a tennis ball could change the course of history.

Only time will tell, but the immediate wash-up is both simple and significant: neither Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, the winners of the past 13 majors - and 56 between them - won't be extending their colossal grand slam streak.

And Djokovic is undoubtedly the big loser, and not only in the race for the all-time record men's major title winners.

Just like Federer's gut-wrenching defeat to Djokovic in last year's Wimbledon final, from two match points up on serve in the sport's first-ever 10-all fifth-set tiebreaker, this missed opportunity will sting the Serb like no other.

Unbeaten in 2020 and an overwhelming favourite to take home the trophy, Djokovic, with 17 slams, remains three behind Federer and two shy of Nadal.

That most certainly wasn't the plan.

While a knee injury ended 39-year-old Federer's season some time ago and Nadal made a conscious decision to skip the US Open to plot his assault on a mind-boggling 13th Roland Garros crown, Djokovic made the trip to New York for the express purpose of capturing an 18th slam.

He is making no secret of his desire to catch - and overtake - Federer, as well as surpass the champion Swiss as the longest-serving world No.1 in history.

Now he is playing catch-up on both fronts.

Age and NextGen counting against Djokovic

With Nadal a prohibitive French Open favourite, Djokovic may have to wait until January's scheduled but uncertain Australian Open to make further inroads.

And unlike Flushing Meadows, where both Federer or Nadal sat out a slam for the first time this century, the Serb's two biggest rivals will be back on deck.

Age, as well as a hungry generation of new challengers, are against all three continuing to add to their grand slam tallies.

Wear and tear from 21 years on tour is clearly taking its toll on Federer, 34-year-old Nadal is carefully saving his body for the claycourt season while Djokovic isn't getting any younger either.

Novak Djokovic walks off the court after being defaulted due to inadvertently striking a lineswoman with a ball hit in frustration at the 2020 US Open.
Novak Djokovic walks off the court after being defaulted due to inadvertently striking a lineswoman with a ball hit in frustration at the 2020 US Open. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

His more immediate, and attainable, goal is eclipsing Federer for most weeks as world No.1.

That, too, though has taken a hit with his New York shocker.

The disgraced world No.1 will relinquish every one of his rankings points earned for reaching the fourth round and is suddenly now vulnerable to also losing his year-end top ranking to Nadal, as he did in 2019.

Djokovic has sat at the summit for 285 weeks, 25 less than Federer, meaning he needs another full six months on top to remove the superstar Swiss from that page in the history books.

The GOAT debate has most certainly taken a dramatic twist as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic continue to stake their claims as the greatest of all time.