One of the major takeaways from this year's Australian Open was that Novak Djokovic's health will likely be his biggest obstacle this season.
But following Sunday's final, Djokovic's era of dominating opponents might be over with the emergence of Jannik Sinner as a direct rival in major competitions. Djokovic will now have to lean on his own shoulder to watch at Sinner just like a father keeping tabs on his toddler.
Sinner took matters into his own hands by inflicting the Serb's first semifinal defeat at the Australian Open. A little over 48 hours later, Sinner would hoist the Norman Brooke's Challenge Cup by beating Daniil Medvedev in the final in five sets to win the tournament.
It was the first Grand Slam win of his career and certainly not his last. While Sinner's physical conditioning has been the one drawback in his young career, he appears to have figured out that productivity is directly proportional to his time on the court.
And with a capable team, Sinner's decision not to play any warm-up tournaments was vindicated and decisive. He was hardly in a spot of bother physically bar that scary moment in which he appeared to have hurt his abdomen in the quarterfinal.
For Djokovic, this is the second year in a row that he lost one of those lengthy winning streaks. Last year, he was beaten on the Wimbledon Centre Court for the first time in ten years by Carlos Alcaraz, another generational talent who came of age.
It was Djokovic's first defeat at the All-England Club since 2017. But the Serb returned to the drawing board and scoured for ways to ensure it didn't happen again. Djokovic has gone on to beat the Spaniard in two high-stakes matches, including an epic Cincinnati final last August.
Djokovic is slowly outstaying his time. He is approaching 37 and dismissed retirement talk at last year's US Open, saying that he "feels" his game and unless the youngsters can "kick his ass" more regularly in Grand Slam tournaments, then he might reconsider his playing days.
What we know for a fact is that Djokovic's biology-defying feat is unlikely to be sustainable until his 40s, despite Patrick Mouratoglou making the bold prediction that he will. His coach, Goran Ivanisevic, outlandishly claimed that Djokovic is even setting sights on representing Serbia at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
But before Djokovic takes a deep dive into contemplating his long-term future in the game, he has a lot on his plate to think about this season. And a problem that needs an imminent solution is how to beat the seemingly unstoppable Jannik Sinner.