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What makes Djokovic’s climb, and it has been a long and arduous climb, to No. 1 more impressive is how persistent he has been. He could, and at times did, have become dispirited as Federer and Nadal left only crumbs for everyone else in tennis. Until Djokovic won at the Australian Open this January, only five of 30 Grand Slam titles since Federer won his first at Wimbledon in 2003 went to someone not called Roger or Rafa.

His uncle, Goran, recalled how Djokovic was stumped, in particular, by a close-fought loss to Nadal in Madrid in 2009 when despite playing “unbelievable tennis” he was still left wondering: “What is this? What can I do? What should I do to beat this guy?”

“I would lie to you if I (said I) didn’t have doubts,” Djokovic acknowledged. “I did have difficult, crisis times where I didn’t know if I could really make it, you know? Because the first two guys were so dominant.”

His mother, Dijana, added: “It’s very hard for four years to be No. 3, you know? You cannot (make this) step, this one step to move on.”

“Now he did it,” she said. “Now, Novak, Novak, Novak.”

Well, that may be stretching it.

Federer and Nadal are not done yet. Getting to No. 1 is one thing. Keeping that ranking when two of the greatest players tennis has seen are breathing down your neck could be something else.

Or, as Bjorn Borg put it, Djokovic is “flying on the moon,” but “Nadal is going to come back; he’s going to win more Grand Slams.”

But, for the moment, Djokovic has the world at his feet.

Well, almost.

The only thing to defeat him during these two weeks in London’s leafy suburb was a squirrel that visited his garden on a regular basis. Every day it got closer but, he said, it wouldn’t take food from his outstretched hand.

Then again, that was before Djokovic became Wimbledon champion.

“Maybe now she will,” he said. “Maybe she heard.”


John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at) or