Is the Novak Djokovic of 2015 better than 2011? - UBITENNIS
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Is the Novak Djokovic of 2015 better than 2011?

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Novak Djokovic - Pechino Open 2014 Djokovic 2011 or 2015?

Novak Djokovic – Pechino Open 2014 Djokovic 2011 or 2015?

I’d say his record is even more impressive than mine.” These were the words of John McEnroe when describing the unbeaten streak that Novak Djokovic put together in 2011. Djokovic ended that year having not won the consecutive wins record(though he did beat McEnroe), but instead put together one of the most dominant years in tennis history. That was 2011. Incredibly, he has produced another year that is worthy of a discussion for his best with 2011. This is 2015.

 

Both years can claim to be Djokovic’s, and some might argue the best, year on the Tour in the Open Era. They are in some respects eerily similar. In both he would claim the Australian Open (by defeating Andy Murray), Wimbledon and the US Open. In both years he would claim five ATP Masters 1000 titles (there is an opportunity for him to win a sixth of 2015 if he wins the Paris-Bercy Masters). Both are incredible years and if we examined titles alone, there might be little way of separating them. The one major flaw in 2011 came back to haunt him in 2015. The French Open. He would fall to one Swiss in the semis in 2011, and another in the final of 2015. Its almost immaterial at what stage he fell, the fact is, he fell in Paris both times.

Yet there are differences, and they are more evident than a semi-final vs final finish in the one Slam he missed in each year. 2011 would see him dominate the first five months of the year more than anyone since John McEnroe in 1984 . However, he would eventually burn-out. A somewhat limp finish to an outstanding year for an exhausted Djokovic, saw him fail to win, or even reach a final, after the US Open. 2015 has seen him maintain, even improve his form, as the year progresses. His displays in the US Open and the Asian swing since have seen him dismiss all contenders, including a rejuvenated Roger Federer.

Do titles ultimately decide which is a better year? It probably decides which titles. Grand Slams certainly do, but he has won, and lost the same number as 2011. Masters 1000? Some impact, but again he is tied here, and one more title if he succeeds in Paris-Bercy may not make or break the case. Winning the ATP World Tour Finals would  be a key factor if this case was  judged by titles won. He fell at the group stages in 2011 so a win this year would be that differentiation. But such is the nature of tennis that the sheer number of titles won would not necessarily decide the discussion either way.

Djokovic’s forty-three match winning streak of 2011 is always going to be a factor. His best run of 2015 was stopped at twenty-eight with defeat in the French Open final, and his losses this year have been more spread out over the season. Most of his 2011 defeats came as a result of his fatigue suffered at the end of an obviously draining campaign. Does a single run claim merit for the overall year? The short answer is yes of course it does. His dominance of 2011 January-May was so  utterly complete that it deserves, it demands, acknowledgement. Yet the way that Djokovic has played this year suggests that he is highly unlikely to slow down. He has two tournaments left to play, yet his win record is already higher than 2011, and his defeats record one less. If he manages to win the last two titles of the year without defeat (it is possible to win the World Tour Finals after a group defeat) then the ability to shave one off the old record is also significant. The ability to stay unbeaten is a mark of consistency. His win record is certain to improve and will likely pass eighty, and tennis, even sport, is all about winning matches.

Nadal was a huge factor in 2011 - not so 2015

Nadal was a huge factor in 2011 – not so 2015

Another consideration is his competition. Was the class of 2011 better than the class of 2015? This answer is not clear-cut. A quick observer would say yes and point to the gaping hole that has been the form of Rafael Nadal this year. The Spaniard has been a thorn to Djokovic, challenging him at every Masters in 2011. Djokovic had to beat him in four consecutive Masters finals that year, and even then, Nadal still took the crown that mattered most at Roland Garros.  Nadal has been simply out of the equation this year. Roger Federer is back to as close to his mercurial best as his age now allows him to be. That age of thirty-four hindered the Swiss master massively this year when it comes to five-set matches, and Djokovic has beaten him in both such encounters this year. The Federer of 2011 was still able to beat the very best over five. That is exactly what he did when he beat Djokovic in the French Open semi, and broke his forty-three match streak. The Federer of 2015 is better than the Federer of 2013-14, but not the Federer of 2011.

Without Federer or Nadal, some would say there would be few to challenge. Andy Murray? His best years have been sandwiched around the Djokovic dominance and, since his back surgery at the end of 2013, has not looked the player he was under the tutelage of Ivan Lendl. Still competitive and maybe Djokovic’s closest competitor next to Federer on hard courts. The same was true of Murray in 2011. Close but no cigar. With Djokovic though there is one name that has begun to irk. Stan Wawrinka. Some thought the Swiss was a flash-in-the-pan winner when he won the Australian Open. But since hiring Magnus Norman, it seems that the Swede has given Wawrinka the keys to defeating Djokovic. Wawrinka has been one of only two players to force Djokovic to five sets. Kevin Anderson is good and no fluke this year, but even at two sets down you felt Djokovic would come through. This is not the case when Djokovic faces Wawrinka, and his display in the French Open final is some of the best tennis seen this year. Are Djokovic’s struggles with the late rise of Wawrinka acceptable replacement for the absence of Nadal for the purpose of levelling the playing field for the 2011/2015 debate? My answer is no. The fit and confident Nadal challenged Djokovic a total of six times in 2011, and all of them in finals. Though losing each time, it was a measure of Djokovic’s greatness rather than any poor play from Nadal, who took a set in four of those six meetings, that decided each contest. Wawrinka is a scarily unpredictable player at times. This may have worked to his benefit in Paris but cost him in Melbourne. It has also cost him the opportunity to stake more of a claim in this discussion by limiting his encounters with Djokovic to just three this year. Both won the French Open in each Djokovic year, so that does not act as a tiebreaker. Nadal’s performance and consistency of 2011 does. Djokovic was more challenged in 2011 than 2015 in the opinion of this writer.

To answer the question is horribly difficult, but in my opinion Djokovic’s forty-three match streak, Nadal’s presence as a genuine force, and the general level of his competitors in 2011, means that even if Djokovic wins both Paris-Bercy and the ATP World Tour Finals, I still consider 2011 his best year.

Views of Pros

Thomas Enqvist: “He’s even more complete than he was in 2011

Henri Leconte: “I’ve never seen anybody play so well and be so relaxed.

Mats Wilander: “Consistency wise, Novak is setting himself up to be the greatest player of all time

Wilander (2) : “I don’t know if you could compare Rod Laver to any season if you don’t win the Grand Slam. The competition is different. It’s different surfaces and I think Novak had to have won the French Open and one of the two hard court majors“.

ATP

Rudolf Molleker knocks out two-time champion Leonardo Mayer in Hamburg

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German 18-year-old Next Gen player Rudolf Molleker knocked out 2014 and 2017 Hamburg champion Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 after 1 hour and 39 minutes at the Hamburg European Open.

 

Molleker beat Mayer in 2017 in the Hamburg qualifying round, but Mayer got a spot in the main draw as a lucky loser and went on to win the title.

Molleker fended off all three break points in two consecutive games of the first set, before saving two set points in the tie-break. He sealed the second set with a single break.

The German teenager saved two break points in the seventh game with two service games with two service winners and one more chance in the ninth game to set up a tie-break. Mayer took the lead twice at 6-5 and 8-7, but Molleker saved both chances with two winners and sealed the tie-break on the 18th point after a double fault from Mayer.

Molleker earned an early break at the start of the second set and held his service games in the next games before sealing the win with a service winner at 5-4 to secure his spot in the round of 16.

Marton Fucsovics cruised past Phillip Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-0 dropping just 16 points on serve. Fucsovics got an early break in the fourth game to clinch the opening set 6-3. The Hungarian player broke three times in a one-sided second set and sealed the win with a service winner.

Andrey Rublev, who lost in the second round at Wimbledon and Umag, edged this year’s Munich and Houston champion Christian Garin 6-4 7-6 (7-5) after 1 hour and 39 minutes to score his second win over the Chilean player this year. Rublev broke three times to seal the opening set 6-4. The Russian player got the break back at 4-5 in the second set to set up a tie-break, which he sealed 7-5.

Jeremy Chardy came back from losing the first set to beat Jeremy Chardy 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-3 after 2 hours and 34 minutes. Paire fended off a set point at 4-5 in the opening set to clinch the tie-break 7-4. Paire got a late break in the second set, but Chardy won two games at 5-5 to force the match to the third set. Chardy went up a double break to seal the third set 6-3.

Martin Klizan converted all five break points to cruise past Daniel Altmaier 6-2 6-2.

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Alex De Minaur Learning Patience After Two Month Injury Lay-Off

Alex De Minaur is ready to be patient as he looks to build some momentum in Atlanta this week.

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Alex De Minaur (@TennisAustralia - Twitter)

Alex De Minaur is learning the art of patience after missing less than two months of action earlier this year. 

 

The Australian had a rough start to the 2019 as he was forced to fight off a groin injury despite winning the Sydney title in January.

Then he had a couple of months off before once again struggling on his return at Indian Wells where he lost in his opening round.

But these setbacks haven’t stopped the 20 year-old from being patient as he looks to make his mark in the US hard court swing,“I feel like I’m doing all the right things, putting myself out there,” De Minaur told atptour.com.

“If it doesn’t happen this week, next week or the week after, I’m going to keep doing the same things. I’m going to do all the right things, be mentally strong, physically strong and I’m playing good tennis, so I think it’s just a matter of time.”

After Indian Wells, De Minaur spent a few weeks in his home in Alicante, Spain as he looked to regain match sharpness.

It was a period that proved challenging for the talented Aussie as he loves to compete, “I’m not used to being at home for that long and, I mean, us tennis players, we need to go out there and compete, at least me,” De Minaur explained.

I’m a very competitive person, and it was tough for me. I had my outlets. I was playing golf a lot. But still, I needed to get back on court. 

“Obviously seeing people go ahead of you and guys are playing these tournaments and seeing the results they were doing and me not being able to actually even be able to be out there and competing, that was very tough.”

Despite losing five of his seven ATP tour matches since returning properly in Estoril, De Minaur is determined to get back to the level that saw him rise to world number 24.

The Next Gen Star thinks it’s a confidence thing and is not easy to regain after an injury, “[It’s] just confidence. Playing matches, playing the big points right,” he explained.

“It’s something that you take for granted when things are going well. But when you have to stop and try to get back into it, it’s tough. Now I’m just keen to go out there and compete and play some good tennis.”

De Minaur continues his comeback surge this week when he competes in Atlanta, where he will face Bradley Klahn or Marius Copil in his first match.

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Nicolas Jarry Aims To Follow In Family Footsteps After Reaching Bastad Final

Nicolas Jarry looks to join his grandfather in winning an ATP title as he reaches the Bastad final.

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Nicolas Jarry (@FOXSport_Chile - Twitter)

Nicolas Jarry will look to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps tomorrow when he takes on Juan Ignacio Londero in the Bastad final. 

 

The Chilean was in fine form today as he beat another Chilean in Federico Delbonis in the semi-finals today, 6-3 6-2 in 64 minutes.

It is Jarry’s third ATP final and his second of the season following his final in Geneva, where he wasted two championship points to lose to Alexander Zverev.

Should the 23 year-old be triumphant on Sunday, he will join his grandfather as an ATP titlist after Jaime Fillol Sr. won six tour titles and finished a high of number 14 in the rankings in 1974.

Next up for Jarry is Cordoba champion Juan Ignacio Londero, who cruised past 2016 Swedish Open champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets.

The 6-3 6-4 victory included the Argentinian winning 73% of his first service points as he dominated the Spaniard in the 1 hour and 21 minute win.

It will be the second final of the season for Londero, who has enjoyed thriving on the clay in 2019 which has helped him reach a career high ranking of 58 in the world in June.

A good sign for Londero, was that en route to winning his lone title in 2019 in Cordoba, he beat Jarry in their only previous ATP World Tour meeting.

Both men will look to cap off an excellent week tomorrow as the final is scheduled for 2pm local time.

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