To be honest, one of the things I dreaded in the U.S. Open was seeing Novak Djokovic win slam No. 21, and move ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the all-time list.
It seemed to be a given, with how he has dominated men’s tennis in the last couple of years, winning eight of the last 12 major tournaments.
It’s not an uncommon feeling I learned, and one said it succinctly that Novak, Roger and Rafa may share the record at 20 each, but when it comes to the fans, he’s a far third having earned most of his slams at the expense of the other two greats.
But after that straight sets loss to Danil Medvedev, the first first-time grand slam winner since Marin Cilic in the 2014 U.S. Open, I’ve learned to appreciate Novak’s quest for his place in history.
So what if he’ll break Roger and Rafa’s shared record? Those two are tennis greats in their own right. We are lucky to witness such great players, whom people will be talking about in the decades to come.
Appreciate greatness while they’re still active, as they say.
So many fans said that in the days after Kobe Bryant tragically died, regretting that at the height of his career, they were too focused on hating the Mamba. Let’s not make the same mistake with Novak, and let’s not learn too late and appreciate what he has done only when he retires.
Will Novak have another great year in 2022, or will the oft-injured Roger Federer have one final great shot before calling it quits? Or will Rafael Nadal nab one? And of course, will Medvedev’s breakthrough win usher in an era of first-time slam winners?
We don’t know, and that’s why 2022 will be a great year for tennis. And of course, for Filipinos who have taken to tennis recently because of Leylah Fernandez, I hope they continue following the game.
Fernandez is just 19 and has years ahead of a promising career, and in the junior ranks we have Alex Eala, who at 16 might start making her forays to the pro ranks.
WRITING 30. I was saddened to hear last week about the passing of Jerome Galunan, a sportswriter friend from Bacolod who I had regularly met during football and boxing events. He was a generous soul who regularly fed me news that would be of use, especially when it came to boxing and football.
Rest in peace, Jerome.