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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Novak Djokovic's tennis dynasty set to recommence with US Open triumph

Serbian on track for second successive grand slam title as he prepares to face Juan Martin del Potro in Sunday's final in New York

Novak Djokovic has found his best form after two years of struggle. Timothy Clary / AFP

The problem with tennis dynasties is we are often not aware they are happening, or are even over, until many years in the future when hindsight becomes a popular tool.

In the men's game both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have had eras of dominance in the game.

Times when clearly they were the dominant force that swept all before them and it was a genuine shock if they were vanquished.

Novak Djokovic was arguably the best player in the world between January 2011 and June 2016, and the statistics back that up.

He won 11 off the 22 grand slam titles played in the period, and was a losing finalist in seven of the other tournaments. His worst result in that time was a quarter-final exit at the Australian Open to highlight the consistent levels the Serbian kept himself to.

It will go down in the history books as one of the most impressive eras in the men's game. Djokovic often gets lost in the adoration given to Federer and Nadal, but his accomplishments should not be underplayed.

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Read more:

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History will remind us in the future of just how good Djokovic was, but the time between July 2016 and July this year will also come up for assessment as potentially a time of missed opportunity for many on the ATP Tour.

Djokovic, after winning the French Open in 2016 - his 12th major which also completed his career grand slam - dipped and suddenly became mortal.

His third-round loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon in 2016 was his worst result at a major in nine years, and began a run of seven grand slam tournaments in a row, he missed last year's US Open through injury, that ran through to July this year.

Loss of motivation after winning all there was to win, personal problems away from the court and an elbow injury that required surgery were all partly to blame for the decline of the then world No 1, who lost the spot to Andy Murray in November 2016 and has not had it back since.

But, he is now back to winning ways. He was triumphant at Wimbledon in July, his five-set victory over Nadal in the semi-finals demonstrating that his spirit and ability to instantly wipe setbacks from his mind was back, as well as his devastating shot making as he appeared to be pain free.

Now he stands one match away from winning the US Open for a third time. Victory over Juan Martin del Potro on Sunday will give him not only his 14th major title but also underline the Serbian is ready to reclaim his mantle as the top dog in the sport.

No player has won back-to-back grand slam trophies since the 31-year-old champion completed a run of four in a row when he won at Roland Garros two years.

Hindsight may well dictate that the past two years have been a missed opportunity for the next generation, or perennial top 10 players, to get themselves a major title.

With Djokovic struggling, there were eight majors to be won. But they were claimed by Federer (3), Nadal (3), Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

If Djokovic is truly back to somewhere near his best then the chance to win big titles may be about to become very difficult again.

Federer and Nadal have won six majors between themselves, but both men have had to be careful how much tennis they play.

The former because at the age of 37 his body is not capable of playing a demanding schedule anymore, while the latter's body continues to be his Achilles heel.

It had been expected to be Djokovic v Nadal in the final on Sunday, but knee problems limited the Spaniard and ultimately forced him to retire when trailing Del Potro by two sets on Friday.

Del Potro may be the higher seeded player at No 3, but Djokovic, the No 6 seed, is the favourite to be the victor in New York.

The first seed will be key. Del Potro, like Wawrinka, can become a dangerous opponent if he builds up some momentum and can draw the match into becoming a slug-fest from the baseline.

Djokovic has only won two of his previous seven US Open finals. A surprisingly poor record and in four of those five losses he dropped the first set, which supports the argument that Del Potro's best chance is to hit the ground running.

At his best, Djokovic has the patience and tactical nous to overcome that and his 14-4 record against the Argentine indicates he knows very well what he has to do to be victor on this occasion.

Del Potro has never beaten Djokovic at a grand slam tournament before, his best effort being an epic five-set loss to his rival in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2013.

While a victory for Del Potro, nine years after he won his sole major trophy at the same venue, is undoubtedly the feelgood moment that most tennis purists will be hoping for.

Especially after his injury problems and three wrist surgeries.

But, Djokovic has been through his own journey and a third US Open title would complete his return to the top echelons of the sport and serve as a warning that the Djokovic dynasty was never over, it was just on a brief hiatus.

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