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“.

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Canada Daily Preview: Two Clashes Between Top 10 Seeds in the Third Round

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Felix Auger-Aliassime practicing this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Thursday, all third round matches will take place in both Montreal and Toronto, making for another extremely busy day of tennis.  And two of those third round encounters see top 10 seeds collide.  In Montreal, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime faces Cam Norrie in a rematch from last Friday’s Los Cabos semifinals.  In Toronto, Aryna Sabalenka plays Coco Gauff, who survived an extended battle on Wednesday against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto and 12:00pm local time in Montreal.


Aryna Sabalenka (6) vs. Coco Gauff (10) – 11:00am on Grandstand in Toronto

Gauff’s second-round victory on Wednesday was a grueling affair.  After failing to convert four match points in the second-set tiebreak, Coco finally prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.  And she did so despite striking 13 double faults, a part of her game that continues to trouble her.  Sabalenka spent over an hour less time on court, defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets.  Gauff leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three meetings have been rather tight.  And of late, Coco has been the much stronger performer.  Going back to her run to the French Open final, Gauff has claimed 15 of her last 19 matches.  By contrast, Sabalenka arrived in Toronto having lost three of her last four.  While Coco will surely feel a bit tired on Thursday, she’ll also feel relieved having escaped what would have been a heartbreaking loss a day earlier, and should play a bit more freely.  And most importantly, she’s currently feeling much more confident than Sabalenka.


Cameron Norrie (9) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Last week in Los Cabos, Norrie took out Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.  However, that was Cam’s first victory over Felix in five tries.  The previous four had all gone the way of the Canadian, including another hard court matchup earlier this year in Rotterdam.  Auger-Aliassime pulled out a dramatic first-set tiebreak on Wednesday night over Washington runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka in thrilling fashion, eventually prevailing in straights.  Earlier in the day, Norrie advanced comfortably, allowing Botic van de Zandschulp only three games.  Just six days removed from their last encounter, Felix will be eager for revenge, especially at his home country’s biggest event.  But playing at home comes with a lot of pressure, and Auger-Aliassime is only 3-4 in his last seven matches.  Cam is the more in-form player, and should be favored to earn his second win over Felix in less than a week.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is the defending champion, and is yet to drop a set through two matches.  Last year in the semifinals of this same event, she defeated Pegula in three.  But overall the American leads their head-to-head 5-2 at all levels, and has twice defeated Camila since that semifinal.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alex de Minaur – It’s Australian versus Australian, and the Washington champ against the Atlanta champ.  Kyrgios upset world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, and has now won 13 of his last 14 matches.  De Minaur has already defeated Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov this week. 

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia – In typical Swiatek fashion, she required just over an hour to prevail over Ajla Tomljanovic in her opening match.  Haddad Maia eliminated Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Wednesday, and won 13 straight matches on grass in June.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Qinwen Zheng – Andreescu outlasted Alize Cornet on Wednesday night in a tight three-setter.  Qinwen benefitted from Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to abdominal pain during their second round matchup. 


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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‘Super Confident’ Nick Kyrgios Admits Admiration for Medvedev Ahead Of Clash

Nick Kyrgios has had positive things to say about Daniil Medvedev ahead of their second round meeting in Montreal.

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Nick Kyrgios (@atptour - Twitter)

Nick Kyrgios has spoken highly of world number one Daniil Medvedev ahead of their second round clash in Montreal.

 

Kyrgios is in some of the best form in his career having reached the final of Wimbledon last month.

That has been followed up by a doubles title in Atlanta and a singles and doubles triumph in Washington.

Now the Australian is into the second round in Montreal after defeating Sebastian Baez 6-4 6-4.

Now Kyrgios takes on the ultimate challenge as he takes on world number one Daniil Medvedev who heads into the match in form himself having beaten Cameron Norrie to win the Los Cabos title.

Speaking ahead of the match the Australian admitted he was confident but has nothing but admiration for Medvedev’s game style, “I know I’ve got Medvedev next which kind of sucks,” Kyrgios told the Tennis Channel.

“I feel like against pretty much any player right now, I’d feel extremely confident. Obviously I feel confident going up against him, but we all know what he can produce. It’s going to be a good match for sure. I’m a bit tired but I’m gonna try and give him a good run.

“I’d like to play 95 per cent of the draw in the next round but if it’s anything like today, I know there’s going to be a lot of balls coming back and it’s going to be tough. A part of me wants the challenge, but a part of me knows it’s not going to be easy at all. I’m not gonna shy away from it, I’m going to do everything I can to recover and rest.

“But he’s a hell of a player and it’s incredible to see how he plays. He returns so far back, hits some crazy shots that we’ve never seen before. He does it his own way, he’s unorthodox and really special in the game. I love watching him play because he just looks so crazy out there, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.

“I love people who just play the way they want to play. He’s comfortable in his own skin so hopefully it will be two contrasting styles as well. Not going to get much different tennis from me, I’m going to serve massive and play big and try to dictate. If I do that well, usually it works.”

Kyrgios is hoping to have good results this week as well as next week in Cincinnati so he can be seeded for the last grand slam of the year at the US Open.

The duo have met on three occasions with Kyrgios leading the head-to-head 2-1 but it’s Medvedev who won their last meeting at the Australian Open in four sets.

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Bianca Andreescu survives thrilling match against Kasatkina in Toronto return

Bianca Andreescu reached the second round in her home tournament while Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu crashed out.

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(@Andreescu_Fans - Twitter)

The 2019 champion made her return three years after winning the title and reached the second round to the delight of the Canadian fans.

 

Bianca Andreescu is into the second round of the National Bank Open being hosted at Sobeys Stadium in Toronto, Ontario after beating the San Jose champion Daria Kasatkina in straight sets 7-6, 6-4.

Although the scoreline seemed pretty routine this match had everything with highs and lows for both players but the Toronto native managed to get through.

“She played really well, super consistent and I am so happy I had that mental toughness to get through in two sets and that was key for me.”

In the first set both players got off to a very nervous start as the first five games of the match were breaks of serve before Andreescu was able to secure the first hold of the match to take a 4-2 lead.

At 5-3 with the Russian serving the Canadian earned two set points but was denied by the number 11 seed and the next game broke the world number 53 to go back on serve at 5-5.

The Toronto native responded by breaking right back once again and served for the set for the second time but Kasatkina broke once more to force a tiebreaker.

The Russian found herself up 4-2 but lost the following two points and the Canadian fought back and managed to take the tiebreaker 7-5 and the first set 7-6 in one hour and 25 minutes.

Dealing with high blood pressure she was seen by the trainer and the doctor during the break between both sets and she was given medication to rectify the problem.

Once again holding serve seemed to be the issue as after the world number 53 held the opening service game of the second set she broke to take an early 2-0 lead.

Kasatkina responded by breaking right back and holding to even the set at 2-2 and broke once again using her powerful forehand on breakpoint to seal the break.

Again she failed to consolidate the break and the Canadian broke her right back and after consolidating the break broke again to take a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve out the match.

Andreescu wasn’t able to close it out as the number 11 seed broke right back but in the following game, the Canadian responded by winning the match on her opponent’s serve.

After the match in her post-match on-court interview, she was asked if she felt the exact same emotions she had back in 2019 and what she will remember from the match.

“I wished I enjoyed it a bit more and I was really looking forward to having that positive attitude that I always have.”

Andreescu will now face Alize Cornet on Wednesday after the Frenchwomen was able to beat another Frenchwomen Caroline Garica in a tough three-set match on Monday night.

A busy Tuesday in Toronto

It was a busy day in Toronto and here are some of the other results from day 2 at the National Bank Open.

Belinda Bencic the number 12 seed got by the Czech qualifier Tereza Martincova in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, and Naomi Osaka was forced to retire down 7-6, 3-0 against Kaia Kanepi due to a back injury.

Amanda Anisimova beat the Canadian wild card, Carol Zhao, in straight sets as well 6-3, 6-1, and Camila Giorgi, the defending champion, ousted the number nine seed Emma Raducanu also in straight sets 7-6, 6-2.

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