Novak Djokovic pursues Federer's 17 slams

DARREN WALTON
Last updated 16:19 31/01/2013

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Where it was once Rafael Nadal, now the talk is of Novak Djokovic chasing down Roger Federer in the all-time grand slam title race.

In the space of two glorious years, Djokovic has transformed himself from a flaky one-slam wonder to the dominant force in tennis and a six-times major champion.

Once mentally suspect and prone to lame mid-match retirements, Djokovic has taken the sport to unseen physical levels to reach seven of the past nine grand slam finals.

Profiting once more from a gluten-free diet and stunning powers of recovery, Djokovic's 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 6-2 Australian Open final victory over Andy Murray earned the Serb a record-equalling fourth crown at Melbourne Park.

The 25-year-old is eyeing an elusive French Open title to complete a rare grand slam set.

He is on the fast track to tennis greatness.

For all that, history suggests Djokovic will come up short in his pursuit of Federer's 17 grand slam titles.

To put Federer's record haul in perspective, add Nadal's 11 to Djokovic's half dozen and the Swiss's two chief threats, both 25, have won as many majors between them as he has amassed on his own.

In essence, Djokovic must now match Nadal's (or Bjorn Borg's or Rod Laver's 11 career majors) to catch Federer.

Or Nadal, finally set for a comeback after a seven-month injury layoff, would need to replicate Djokovic's six slams to reel in the Swiss master.

Djokovic or Nadal would have to emulate the grand slam stats of two of the most successful players in history to equal Federer's 17 majors.

With doubts about Nadal's ability to even return to his brilliant best, Djokovic may in fact be better placed to make a run at Federer's benchmark number.

Yet Borg, Nadal, Mats Wilander, Peter Sampras, Federer and John McEnroe were all younger than Djokovic when they won their sixth grand slam title.

At just 22 years and one month old, Borg was more than three-and-a-half years younger than Djokovic when he claimed his sixth slam and ended up with "only" 11, though the Swede was finished at just 26.

Wilander added just one more to his tally, Sampras - who was almost two years younger than Djokovic when he collected No.6 - accrued eight more, Federer has amassed another 11 and is still hunting, while McEnroe could only manage one other.

Little wonder Djokovic is preferring to savour his latest triumph rather than make any bold predictions himself.

"I'm just trying to play this game with 100 per cent of devotion, love, passion and fun also," the Serb said.

"(I am) 25 years old and I won six grand slams and have a lot of trophies. It's amazing.

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"I'm just trying to embrace this moment and enjoy it as much as I can and see where tomorrow brings me."

AGE OF TENNIS CHAMPIONS WHEN THEY WON THEIR SIXTH GRAND SLAM SINGLES TITLE (total of slams in brackets)

Bjorn Borg (11) - 22 years, 1 month

*Rafael Nadal (11) - 22 years, 8 months

Mats Wilander (7) - 23 years, 10 months

Pete Sampras (14) - 23 years, 11 months

*Roger Federer (17) - 24 years, 1 month

John McEnroe (7) - 25 years, 7 months

*Novak Djokovic (6) - 25 years, 8 months

Jimmy Connors (8) - 26 years, 0 months

Stefan Edberg (6) - 26 years, 8 months

Ivan Lendl (8) - 27 years, 6 months

Boris Becker (6) - 28 years, 10 months

Andre Agassi (8) - 29 years, 9 months

*denotes player still active

- AAP

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