The ‘arrival’ of Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic this year at the French Open, one of the few tournaments he didn’t win.

Novak Djokovic this year at the French Open, one of the few tournaments he didn’t win.

Whatever happens at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London – where Novak Djokovic is scheduled to play Roger Federer Tuesday, Nov. 17 as part of the round-robin format – Nole has had one helluva season. Three Slam titles, again. Six Masters 1000 titles (the first man to do so in a season.) No. 1, again. ATP Player of the Year, again. A nomination for Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, again.

Now it appears that others outside the tennis community are taking notice of a year that surpasses his dream season of 2011. Christopher Clarey’s “Novak Djokovic Ascends Ever Higher, With No Clear Landing in Sight” appeared Nov. 13 online in The New York Times, also known as the Roger Federer Gazette. Ah, that must’ve hurt. But Nole’s “relentless perfection,” as former Fed and Pete Sampras coach Paul Annacone described it in the article, can no longer be denied.

On ABC’s college football broadcast Nov. 14, Seiko went with a Nole commercial for the Astron, the world’s first GPS Solar watch. (The handsome Novak Djokovic Limited Edition version – all rose gold and crocodile leather – is available this month.) There is little narration in the commercial, just mostly Nole playing.

That’s when you know you’ve arrived.

For Nole, it’s been a long road. He has always had the talent. (Remember that his late, beloved coach Jelena Gencic told his parents he was “a golden child.”) And this polyglot has always had the brains. What he didn’t always have was the maturity. That, I think, takes time and heart. As the poet e.e. cummings observed, “It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” True that.

Of course, as Tom Coughlin pointed out after his New York Giants beat the perfect New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, anyone can beat anyone on any given day. We saw Stan Wawrinka play lights out against Nole in the French Open final, and we all know what happened to Serena Williams against Roberta Vinci in the US Open. (As I’ve written before, Nole’s greatest heartbreak was his greatest blessing. Stanimal did him a favor winning the French, not because it took the pressure off for a possible Grand Slam run but because it enabled him to go deep inside himself and rebound at Wimbledon. That – more than the US Open triumph over Fed, a fall and a hostile crowd – was his finest hour.)

If Nole loses in London, it will be an anomaly that proves the rule. Something has shifted, which may have as much to do with us as with him.

The world’s perception of Novak Djokovic has changed, and he has passed from stardom into legend.