It is hard to argue against Novak Djokovic being the best player of all time. His accomplishments are amazing and at 35-years-old, he is once again the No. 1 player in the world. Rafa and Roger are right there as well, but Novak seems the strongest and is most likely to continue adding to his amazing results.
That being said, how are the current players going to figure out a way to give themselves a chance to win some of the big matches when facing him? I believe there are players with the tools to win grand slams in the next few years but they have to be able to go through Novak. First, they will have to serve and return serve extremely well. The player will have to make a high number of first serves (70% or higher) and control the point with depth or pace. This goes for returning serve as well. The percentage of returns needs to be very high and the return needs to be hit deep and down the middle or with pace and down the middle.
The shots after the return should be hit with the same idea. In my opinion, there is a better chance of winning the point by playing a lot of shots down the middle or directly at Novak, rather than making him move and giving him the ability to redirect the shot or create angles. In addition, someone has to figure out how to get into the net more often (again, approaching down the middle), and also try to pull Novak in with some short slices or low balls hit in front of him. These things will definitely work to a degree.
However, based on what we have seen for almost 20 years, Novak will make adjustments and the match will likely come down to how well the opponent plays the big points. If most of the points are not as I described, the success on the crucial points will likely to go in Novak's direction, and he will end up with the most Grand Slam titles of any player in the history of the game.
To be honest, even if the current players figure some of this out, Novak Djokovic will likely exceed most, if not all of the existing records in professional tennis.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com throughout the Hamptons, NY. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (Tucson, AZ) for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at email@example.com