Novak Djokovic was the most prolific world No.1 in men’s tennis history by the time his reign temporarily ended in February, 2022.
Djokovic first claimed the No.1 ranking on July 4, 2011, and held it until July 8, 2012. He has had six periods as world No.1 and been a year-end No.1 a record seven times.
His 2011 season was supreme, reaping his second victory at the Australian Open, plus maiden titles at Wimbledon and the US Open. His victory over Nadal in the Melbourne Park final that year is one of the true epics: a 5–7 6–4 6–2 6–7 (5-7) 7–5 victory that at 5 hours and 53 minutes is the longest Grand Slam final in history. The Serbian great is a 21-time Grand Slam singles champion, including nine Australian Opens, extending his own record at the Melbourne major.
But it was the 2022 Australian Open which resulted in Djokovic relinquishing the top spot in the rankings, after the Serbian was deported from Australia on the eve of the tournament.
Djokovic had refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning he was unable to defend his title.
In an interview with the BBC, he said he wanted to be able to decide what went in his body.
But he went further in a subsequent follow up with Serbian TV.
“I was painted in a really ugly manner. I was humiliated, if I may say so, on a world stage,” he said.
“That is why it is important for me to have the opportunity to say something.
“I will repeat what I said to the BBC, because I don’t have more to add.
“I’ve done everything that was asked of me. There is a belief that I was privileged in a way, that I (got the exemption) because of my stature.
“I will keep saying it and repeat it like a parrot, although the BBC has cut that part of the interview: 10 days before me, a Czech tennis player and Croatian coach entered Australia with the same medical exemption.
“She played a tournament, he coached his player no problem at all.
“Suddenly I come and there is a problem. Why? You tell me.
“There were things that shook me that I can’t forget.
“What I can do is accept it and move on. You will never see me running away from responsibility or not wanting to answer a certain question. I am not hiding anything.”
Novak Djokovic later returned to the top of the men’s tennis rankings – after being temporarily dethroned by Daniil Medvedev – when he reached the Serbia Open final in April, 2022.