World number one Novak Djokovic has 17 Grand Slam singles titles and is on course for finishing his career with the most in the men’s game, surpassing his rival Roger Federer.

It’s been a career that has been far from plain sailing for Djokovic, so how did the Serbian become such a dominant player on the ATP Tour?

Early Struggles 

After turning professional in 2003, Djokovic had to work hard in order to keep his place on the men’s tour as the promise he showed as a junior counted for nothing in the senior game.

With more experience under his belt, the Serbian started to make big strides in 2007. He reached the final of the US Open that year where he was beaten in the final by Federer in straight sets. Although he did not have a Grand Slam title at the end of it, 2007 felt like a big season for Djokovic.

In 2008 Djokovic built on his career-best year to win the Australian Open. The first of his eight titles in the opening Grand Slam on the calendar. The tournament in Melbourne has been so kind to the Serbian over the years. He is set to return there in January where he is the +210 favorite in the tennis betting for his ninth win. That looks a strong possibility given his excellent form at the moment.

Fitness and Return Game Helped Differentiate Djokovic

Djokovic had to wait three years for his next Grand Slam title win. He worked very hard to get his game to the next level, which was required to match Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray.

The Serbian made sure he was one of the fittest players on the tour, if not the fittest. This was crucial as some of his games against the top three players in the world went over five-sets so his level needed to be as sharp in the fifth set as it was in the first.

Djokovic also became the best returner in the game around this period. This put a lot of pressure on his opponents for their winners to be even better. It was this improvement on court that helped the man from Belgrade really start to get on a roll in the Grand Slams.

Determination to Carry on Achieving

With five wins from his last eight Grand Slam appearances, Djokovic is going through one of the best stages of his career. Although he is quite clearly the number one player in the men’s game at the moment, he does not allow his standards to slip.

Djokovic fights very hard for every point on the court regardless of his opponent or the tournament he is in. It is this attitude that ensures he remains the number one player in the ATP Tour rankings.

Federer and Nadal are at the back stages of their careers now so the challenge going forward may come from the latest batch of young talented players. Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev all look capable of winning Grand Slam titles in the near future.

It has been some journey Djokovic has been on over the last 17 years, and he is showing no signs of slowing down just yet in his bid to be considered the greatest men’s player the sport has ever seen.