“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.
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“.
Jean Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the doubles tournament in London
Former ATP Finals champions Jean Julien Rojer from the Netherlands and Horia Tecau from Romania beat 2019 year-end number 1 team Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-2 5-7 10-8 after 90 minutes in Max Mirnyi Group of the doubles tournament at the ATP Finals in London.
Tecau broke serve with a backhand crosscourt winner to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set. The Romanian player went up a double break with a backhand crosscourt winner at 5-2 to seal the opening set after 28 minutes.
Cabal and Farah did not convert any of their break points in the ninth game of the second set before breaking serve for the first time in the match two games later to claim the second set 7-5 forcing the match to the decisive set.
Rojer and Tecau went up a 6-2 lead in the Match Tie-Break. Cabal and Farah won four consecutive points to draw level to 6-6. Rojer and Tecau rallied from 7-8 down by winning three consecutive points to claim the Match Tie-Break 10-8.
Rojer and Tecau have now a 1-1 record in Group Max Mirnyi. The Dutch and Romanian team took the re-match against Cabal and Farah, who won their previous head-to-head clash in five sets at Wimbledon en route to their maiden Grand Slam doubles title.
“I am happy with our form. We lost the first match and knew we would need to bounce back against a very good team. We played a very good first set, prior to them making adjustments in the second set. We played a really good Match tie-break”, said Rojer.
Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus secure their spot in the semifinal in the doubles tournament at the ATP Finals in London
Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus beat Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 6-3 6-4 in the evening’s double match securing their spot in the semifinal with a record of 2-0 in the Group Jonas Bjorkman.
Klaasen earned an early break with a forehand volley to open up a 3-1 lead. Venus and Klaasen dropped just four points on serve and did not face a break point. Venus held serve at 5-3 to close out the opening set 6-3 after 32 minutes.
Both teams held serve until the ninth game, when Venus got the first break at 4-4 with a half-volley winner, when Melo was serving on a deciding point. Kubot and Melo fended off two match points in the next game to force a deciding point and got their first break point of the match.
Venus sealed the win after 71 minutes with a big serve on their third match point in the 10th game. Klaasen and Venus won 86 % of their serve points.
US players Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury scored their first win in the Group Jonas Bjorkman at the Nitto ATP Finals, when they beat Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 3-6 6-3 10-6 in the Match Tie-Break. The US team improved their ranking to 1-1.
Dodig and Polasek earned the first break in the fourth game of the opening set to open up a 3-1 lead. They saved four consecutive break points in the ninth game, when they were serving for the first set at 5-3. Dodig and Polasek sealed the first set with a service winner after 33 minutes.
Ram and Salisbury did not convert break points in the most crucial moments of the first set. Ram and Salisbury earned their only break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead and did not face a single break point to win the second set 6-3 forcing the match to the third set.
Ram and Salisbury opened up a 3-0 lead with an early mini-break in the Match tie-break. Dodig and Polasek rallied to draw level to 5-5. Ram and Salisbury sealed the win on the first match point, when Polasek hit a backhand volley into the net at 9-6.
Dodig and Polasek, who won two titles in Cincinnati and Beijing, lost to Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 10-5 in the Match Tie-Break in last Saturday’s first match.
Dominika Cibulkova announces her retirement from tennis
Dominika Cibulkova has announced her retirement from professional tennis at an event in her home town of Bratislava. The 30-year-old Slovakian player won eight titles on hard-court, grass, and indoor surfaces and achieved her career-high of world number 4 on 20th March 2017.
Cibulkova reached the semifinal at the 2009 Roland Garros, three quarter-finals at Wimbledon (i2011, 2016 and 2018) and the quarter-final at the US Open in 2010. She became the first Slovakian player to reach a Grand Slam final when she finished runner-up to Li Na at the 2014 Australian Open. She achieved the best result of her career in October 2016, when she beat former world number 1 Angelique Kerber at the WTA Finals in Singapore to clinch the Billie Jean King Trophy. That year Dominika won three more titles at Katowice, Eastbourne, and Linz. She also finished runner-up in Acapulco, Madrid, and Wuhan.
“It wasn’t just winning the WTA Finals, but also the road to qualifying, which was really hard. I had to win in Linz just to make it there. While winning Singapore was the biggest moment of my career and life, winning Linz and the way I had to fight to get there, the fact that I was able to do it and belong among the best players in the world”, said Cibulkova in an interview to the WTA Website.
Cibulkova also won four more titles in Moscow 2011, Carlsbad 2012, Stanford 2013 and Acapulco 2014.
She represented the Slovak Republic at two editions of the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and has scored a record of 22 wins and 11 defeats in her Fed Cup appearances.
Cibulkova decided Roland Garros would be the final tournament of her career.
“It wasn’t a decision where I woke up and thought: “I don’t want to play anymore”. It was a long process. I was already convinced by the time I played Azarenka in Miami, that this could be my last match. It was strange because I knew, and no one around me except my team knew it would be my last tournament. At that point, I was 100 percent sure. I was not doubting or thinking: maybe yes or no. I knew I wanted to do it like this, for this to be my last tournament. I went home and I was happy with my decision. It’s really hard to make it, but once you do, you more free. I feel like this life has been fulfilled for me, and I want to start a new one. I was already feeling like the tennis life is really tough, with all the traveling and training, giving 100 % every day. I started to get tired of it. In the end, I gave enough and achieved things I never dreamed of reaching in my career ”, said Cibulkova.
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