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

Dominic Thiem Rules Federer Out Of GOAT Debate

The Austrian puts forward his theory on who should be regarded as the best player in history.

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Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

The honour of which player deserves to be regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT) should be decided based on one factor, according to Dominic Thiem. 

 

The former world No.3 has weighed in on the debate by suggesting that the argument should be settled by the number of Grand Slam titles a player has won as they are the most prestigious tournaments in the sport. In tennis, the four major tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

Thiem’s GOAT criteria have therefore ruled Roger Federer out of contention. The Swiss maestro was at one stage the frontrunner due to the numerous records he has broken throughout his career. However, he retired from the sport last year with 20 Grand Slam trophies under his belt which is less than both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who are currently on 22 each. 

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” Eurosport quotes Thiem as saying. 
“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Others will argue that more factors should be taken into account in the subjective debate. For example, Federer has won 103 ATP titles which are more than his two rivals, Djokovic holds the record for most weeks as world No.1 and Nadal has won more tournaments on clay than any other player in history. Furthermore, there is the players’ win-loss rate on the Tour and their records against the top 10 players. 

Recently at the Australian Open Djokovic won the men’s title for a historic 10th time in his career. An achievement that has been hailed by Thiem who was runner-up to the Serbian at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” he said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.
“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

Thiem has won one Grand Slam title which was at the 2020 US Open when he became the first man in the Open Era to come back from two sets down to win in the final. He has also been runner-up at the French Open twice, as well as the Australian Open once. 

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Andreescu edges Kostyuk to reach semis in Hua Hin

Bianca Andreescu is into the semi-finals in Thailand.

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Bianca Andreescu (@BenLewisMPC - Twitter)

The Canadian is into the final four in Thailand after beating the Ukrainian in straight sets.

 

Bianca Andreescu booked her spot in the semifinal of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after beating the Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in straight sets 6-0, 7-6 in one hour and 28 minutes.

The number one seed hit 19 winners and won 69% of her first serve points in a match where she had an amazing start but was dealt some adversity in the second set.

“I don’t think I started playing bad in the second set,” Andreescu said. “I think she just raised her game and she is always a tough opponent so I wasn’t expecting anything easy.”

The Toronto native who was making her first trip to Thailand came out to a flying start breaking three times in the first set en route to serving a bagel 6-0 set in a mere 25 minutes on court.

Riding the momentum into the second set, the Canadian broke again in the first game and at 3-1 went up a double break and found herself up 5-1 and a game away from the semis.

That’s when the number five seed started fighting back and at 5-2 broke Andreescu for the first time in the match and won the next two games to level the set at 5-5, using her powerful forehand to do it.

The set and the match were ultimately decided by a tiebreaker where the top seed got the early lead at 4-2 and served out the set and match at 6-3 in the breaker to secure the win.

After the match in her on-court interview, she was asked about her chances in the next match.

“I am hoping to win the tournament and I really believe in myself and if I get the support I need hopefully I can win the next two matches.”

Andreescu will face another Ukrainian in the semi-finals Lesia Tsurenko who had no issues getting past the German Tatjana Maria in straight sets 6-1 6-1 in one hour and 16 minutes.

In the other two quarterfinal matches, Lin Zhu of China beat the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 15 minutes to set up an all-Chinese semi-final with the number seven seed Xinju Wang.

Wang needed three sets to get past the Brit Heather Watson 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 40 minutes.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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