Dubai: When Novak Djokovic returned to Dubai in February this year, having spent his Christmas and New Year holidays here, we were wondering if we would watch him make it a hat-trick of titles given that crowd favourite Roger Federer was finally playing at The Aviation Club again after two years.
The Serb was fresh from winning his second Australian Open and had set off on his amazing unbeaten run. A week later, after a final masterclass that saw the winner of 16 Grand Slam titles taken apart, we were again left wondering how long this run would last. By the time it ended after an incredible 43 matches and seven tournaments, ironically, at the hands of Federer in the French Open semi-final, the verdict was out.
The Djoker was finally ready to be King.
Last Sunday at Wimbledon saw his coronation as he hammered Rafael Nadal into submission in the final, his fifth consecutive victory in a final over the Spaniard. That, along with the fact that he has beaten Federer thrice this year and won eight out of the nine tournaments he has entered, means that he has not only broken the Federer-Nadal stranglehold at the top after a staggering seven-and-half years, he has also managed to take men's tennis to an altogether new level, one that even the sublime Federer and the gritty Nadal are currently struggling to match.
The 24-year-old Serb is now the talk of the tennis world for his on-court exploits, but it wasn't long ago that he made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
An outgoing youngster with a cheeky streak, the Serb enjoyed impersonating his fellow tennis stars on court - even though this was not always well received in the locker room. He had also developed a reputation for not only being a bit of a choker but also a hypochondriac due to his habit of retiring during matches, especially when behind, this despite the fact that he had won the Australian Open title in 2008.
But all that changed after Serbia's historic Davis Cup triumph last year. A leaner and fitter Djokovic, built around a gluten-free diet owing to his allergy to the protein composite, transformed himself into a winning machine, devouring everything in his way. Even the centre court on Sunday was not spared as he ate a blade of grass to celebrate his journey to the top. After all, it has been nine years since someone other than Federer or Nadal lifted the trophy at Wimbledon.