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Djokovic's 'outrageous' season

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Jonathan Overend | 19:32 UK time, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

People often ask if sports commentators pre-prepare special lines to mark extraordinary moments. For the most part, the truth is we don't.

Sometimes you summarise your thoughts and make the odd note, but scripting commentary is a bad idea. You lose the spontaneity of the moment if you do.

And so I found myself listening back to the best bits of Novak Djokovic's remarkable 2011 season for a 5 live Sport Special (Thursday from 2030 GMT) and was struck by the moment he beat Rafa Nadal in the Rome final back in May.

Remember this was still the clay-court spring, with three of the four majors still to be played. Djokovic's win was a seventh title of the year and a fourth win in Masters 1000 finals over the world number one.

"He's still unbeaten!... It's OUTRAGEOUS...!!"

My portacabin, high on scaffolding above the Foro Italico, was shaking from the spectators jumping around in the stand.

He had edged past Andy Murray in the semis and returned to win a terrific final with Nadal. That weekend there was a sense, certainly I had it, that his amazing run was about to end. It had to sometime, didn't it?

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic won three of the four majors in 2011 - including Wimbledon

This for me was the big weekend in Djokovic's season - the weekend which told us that, in 2011, anything was going to be possible for the Serb.

Marian Vajda, his coach and friend, feels that way, too. "That was the time I really thought he can be number one after beating Nadal in front of his home crowd and then again in Rome," he told BBC Radio 5live Sport in a rare interview.

"I really had a feeling that going into the French Open he could go for the highest goal and reach the final, maybe win against Nadal. It's all you can wish for in one year. All you can do now is wish [for] a good Christmas, relax, and prepare for the new season."

Another interesting feature of the Vajda interview is the acceptance that Djokovic pushed himself too hard after Wimbledon, perhaps fuelled by the feeling of invincibility or tempted by the scent of history. "He wasn't paying attention to his body" says Vajda, candidly.

It was this admirable devotion to the practice court which Vajda believes contributed to Djokovic's shoulder problems which then persisted through until the end of the year and dented his season stats.

He may have ended with six defeats, but two were injury retirements, two were in the final week of the season and one was when he hit the wall against Kei Nishikori in Basle.

It would surely be fair to say that, when fully fit, he lost only one match during a gruelling 11-month season. Would it therefore also be fair to say that Djokovic was ultimately penalised for his success?

Had he shut down his season after New York, history would truly have been rewritten. He had only lost twice by that point.

His win/loss ratio of 70-6 isn't one that will jump out of the history books in future years - Federer went 81-4 in 2005, McEnroe 84-3 in 1984 - but I believe it should be regarded as one of the greatest seasons ever because he beat Nadal and Federer, two of the greatest players of all-time, a total of 10 times.

This is what has made tennis so compelling this year - the sheer frequency of the big-name showdowns. This is what has made Djokovic's 2011 story so remarkable. He won virtually all of them.

More seasoned tennis watchers than me believe we're unlikely to see the like of it again. It was, simply, "outrageous".

You can listen again to the 5 live Tennis special on Novak Djokovic's amazing year on the BBC iPlayer until 22 December.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Jonathan, to a large extent I have to agree with you. I am a die-hard Federer fan, but Novak's season this year has just been unimaginable to say the least. When he was on his 20+ match winning streak up until Miami, I thought, for sure Nadal's going to break it during the clay-court swing. But to my disbelief, he proved me wrong and beat the King of Clay in straight sets in both Madrid and Rome, and that for me was the turning point of his season. He made Nadal look so ordinary in both those finals, and it was going to only be a matter of time before he took the World No. 1 ranking from then on. In my eyes it is probably the best year in tennis history, even better than (grudgingly have to admit) Federer's dominance in 2005 and 2006, as considering like you mentioned, he beat Federer and Nadal 10 times combined. It will take a super-human effort for Novak himself let alone any other player to repeat it. Yes, he suffered 6 losses, 4 post the US-Open, but I believe his only genuine loss came at the hands of Federer at the French, which I believe was the best match of the year behind their clash at the US-Open. He was more or less injured in his other defeats, and yeah it was his fault to continue playing while plagued with injury, but nevertheless an important point worth mentioning. What excites me from a Federer point of view, is not his end of season form, which saw him wrack up 3 titles in a row, but the way he played against Novak at the French and the US-Open. He was sublime in both of the matches, and was immensely unlucky to lose at the Open. Credit to Novak, but the manner in which he brushed aside Nadal in all those finals, gives me confidence that Federer will be Novak's main challenger next year. I still think he has everything in him, and I'm not relegating Nadal here at all (who will also be a major threat), but Federer's best, like Henman said, is better than everyone's best, and if Federer can bring and maintain his best next year, then Novak's fans should be worried.

  • Comment number 2.

    He won 3 Grand Slam tournaments but failed to reach the final of the FO. This is where "the greatest season argument" ends. He was very fortunate to progress to the USO Final and was virtually anonymous after that tournament ended.

    Having said that, I do believe he had an outstanding season. I never thought he would become a multiple slam winner, and here he is with 3 inside a calendar year. However. His performance was so much higher than his standards, I believe if he fails to repeat in 2012 people will once again raise questions about his "diet".

  • Comment number 3.

    I would have been very interested to see a Nadal v Djokovic French Open Final.

    There's always next year. :)

  • Comment number 4.

    The danger of the men's game is that whilst exciting and potentially the greatest period ever, it that the same four that are contesting at the sharp end each year. It appears that Feds has a mental edge over Novak, Novak over Nads and Nads over Feds. I appreciate that this rule does not always apply and is surface dependant but the theory does stand. Murray has not established a consistent authority at this level.

    I expect and hope that Tsonga makes the step up and shakes the tree in the new season. Of the top 3, rather than Feds being the first to fall, I expect it to be Nads, through a mixture of fitness and predictability. I also believe that his experience at the hands of Novak this year has done some long term pyschological damage to his confidence.

    If anyone is to repeat Novak's year, I expect it to be Novak himself. Failing that, maybe a Feds final demo.

  • Comment number 5.

    Outrageous season no doubt from Djokovic, especially so given his position this time last year. That said, I don't think it is undoubtedly better than some of the other great seasons to have gone before, particularly given he was close to only winning two of the four slams.

  • Comment number 6.

    Unbelievable season from Djokovic because it is the manner in which he thrashed both Federer and Nadal which will spring to mind ( only time he lost to one was the French Open Semi)

    I remember watching Wimbledon this year and Nadal simply did not know what hit him and I've never seen anyone hit Nadal off the court with blistering groundstrokes

  • Comment number 7.

    Can this be described as the best season ever when Djokovic simply couldn't keep it up? There is no doubt that the first half of the year was incredible for the Serb; he really was practically unbeatable. But things began to come off the rails towards the end, which is why I think Federer's 2006 was still better.

  • Comment number 8.

    A truly great season for Djoko. He utterly dominated Nadal (6 finals, 6 wins, all surfaces) and that's what his season rested on. He didn't dominate Federer - lost to him at the French, lost to him again (bar a fluke) at the US.

    Next season I see Nadal fading (no slams) and a big year for Murray. Federer has more slams in him. Djoko does too, but he won't repeat his 2011 or even close to it.

  • Comment number 9.

    yes indeed it was one of the greatest but truly amazing domination of the tennis court by any man in history. though am a nadal fan ,i believe only Federer has the potential to beat djoko at his best simply because fedex in his best is unrivalled.I look forward to 2012 being the year when federer has it all-4 grand slams,olympics gold et al.

  • Comment number 10.

    The delusion from Federer fans here is laughable. I'll be suprised if he makes a slam final let alone win one. He meets Nadal or Djokovic at any slam, he gets beat, simple as that. There is a reason he did not win one this year.

    Djokovic's season has been the most dominant ever. For every slam, he had to beat 2 greats, Nadal and Federer and dominated them 10-1. Whether he can maintain this level of play next year is yet to be seen.

  • Comment number 11.

    The US Open final was the finest standard of tennis I have ever seen. The intensity of the ground strokes and the length of the rallies was absolutely immense. It seemed the standard and intensity of the tennis got higher with every final the two played against each other this year (massive shame they didn't get to play each other in the French) and the US Open served as the final showpiece. Having followed the progress of Djokovic for the last few years, when Nadal won the tie break in the fiercely contested third set I struggled to see how Djokovic would go on and win the match. I found it astonishing that in the fourth, even though back injury forced him to take 20-30mph of his first serve, Djok was able to close the match out with such ease. Nadal wasn't even in the in it during the fourth – it seemed like he had expended all his mental and physical energy, and had nothing else left to give. This was a drastic turn of events – for the Djok of old the medical time out was a sign that the match was done and dusted in his opponents favour (slight exaggeration but essentially true). This season Djokovic has transformed himself into a guy that can win in all the big matches. He has always had the shots to compete with Fed and Nadal, but in 2011 he approaches the big moments and big games differently. The composure and clarity of thought he displays when he rallies with Nadal is second to none, especially during longer points (Federer can't stay with Nadal during the longer rallies). Yet Fed has given Djok more problems than Nadal this season - Fed's quality of serve being the obvious reason why. The stand out feature of Djok v Nadal 2011 finals was that Djokovic looked like he could break every one of Nadal's service games.

    Can Djokovic do it again next season? For me it depends. I agree with the comment that Fed has more slams in him, and going into Aus Open it looks like him and Djok are the two favourites. But if Nadal can serve like he did in 2010 he will be a different animal than in 2011. Then again, Djok's game and mental edge at the highest level might be too good for both of them. It is definitely a golden era for men's tennis and the trivalry (Fed, Nadal, Djok) makes great viewing - Roll on 2012!

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm a Nadal's fan, but this year he was not at his best or at least appeared that way whenever he met Djokovic. Nadal's first serve speed was strangely lacking punch in USO final. Anyway, Djokovic did not dominate Federer entirely. He had a slight upper hand, but it was certainly not a domination. Next year we cannot say who will be best, suddenly Nadal may pick up, or Djokovic may continue the same he did this year or Federer will just brush both of them off or may be a totally new person may take the center stage!

  • Comment number 13.

    Reference: line 1 of the blog
    What is to "pre-prepare"? Are those the preparations that you make before you make your preparations? This blog comment box is offering me the chance to preview my comment but I can't see the button to pre-preview it.

  • Comment number 14.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 15.

    His achievement was great, but to gloss over the physical problems as if they don't count is to overlook that this brand of tennis is primarily about endless retrieval and exhaustion. I the end he exhausted himself.
    McEnroe in 1984, and Federer mid noughties, dominated without stress and indeed at 30 it's Federer who finishes the season in sound physical shape while his rivals are in pieces.
    So he lost what the numbers say, because the reason he won through the 1st half is the same reason he lost at the end.

  • Comment number 16.

    Djoko's season was terrific, but it lacked the clay-grass double and therefore it cannot be classified as one of the very best ever. Nadal's season last year was better, 3 slams won on 3 surfaces + the clay court slam.

  • Comment number 17.

    A fit & healthy Djokovic will be the man to beat next year period. Federer will most certainly be beaten by Nadal at any meet, as Nadal has his number, the same way Djoko has Nadals number. Federer is a great player and has conditioned himself so well throught his career (the best at it), and will beat the average 'joe' easily, but Nadal & Djoko, not a chance, and when Murray (yes Andy) decides to step up his game he will beat Federer.
    As tennis loving fans, lets hope that the top 4 (more of the top 8) players remain fit and healthy throughout next year . and will see a more exciting season. My money will on Djoko and Nadal taking all the slams, with Djoko having the edge

  • Comment number 18.

    This has clearly been an unbelievable season from Djokovic; he's won 3 grand slams, become world no. 1 and completely dominated Nadal, not to mention other superb achievements. But i'm surprised Federer's 2006 season is not mentioned ... it was simply the greatest season in the modern era. How can anyone argue against these stats ...

    1) A year end win-loss record of 92-5
    2) 3 grand slams (including a final appearance at the French)
    3) Won the year end championships (without losing a match against the top 8 players in the world)
    4) Entered 17 tournaments, reached 16 finals
    5) Ended world no. 1

    But what makes this the greatest season ever ... he did this with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. Federer was not allowed to lose a match or the tennis world came to a standstill, Djokovic hasn't had to play with that kind of pressure.

  • Comment number 19.

    #17 bdyke04.
    Nadal certainly did not "have Federer's number" at the O2 in the ATP finals last month. Federer swept him aside in 2 sets in one hour, with the second set 6-0 being one of the most complete displays I have ever seen from Federer or anyone else. It didn't look like Nadal was physically tired, but mentally he was so completely dominated I think it will take him a long time to get it out his mind. Uncle Tony will have to work hard to stop him thinking about it the next time faces Roger.

    I do wonder about whether Djokovic can sustain the level next year due to the strain he puts on his body - its got to be a concern for his supporters that he has withdrawn due to injury in twice this year. Is that over-playing/practising, or a mental thing when the going gets tough??

    If Tsonga can maintain his level he has to be one to add to the Federer/Nadal/Murray group as challengers to Novak, as does Del Potro if he gets back to where he was a few years ago.

    2012 should be another great year in men's tennis - and hopefully continued progress for the UK women as well - interested to know your thoughts on prospects in that area Jonathan.

  • Comment number 20.

    the stats don't lie! fed is the best ever!

  • Comment number 21.

    G Singh
    @18

    Tend to agree with you, a very good year though.
    Will he do it next year? possible but i do see a one or two outside the three who may challenge.

  • Comment number 22.

    I do not wish to take away any credits from Djokovic's incredible achievements this season. Nevertheless, while it is true that this sort of domination - not only in tennis alone but in almost all sports - is extremely rare, I have to bring myself to disagree with the notion that Djokovic's 2011 tennis season is the greatest individual season ever in the history of the open era.

    Federer's 2006 season and McEnroe's 1983 season were, in my opinion, better statistic-wise and form-wise. Numbers and records of these two tennis greats are already quoted above, and I believe objectively many people can point to my same conclusion.

    Yet again, 2011 has truly been a season to remember for Djokovic and his fans.

    Let's look forward to 2012, with the London Olympics joining the main events circuit. Does anyone think that there will be a player repeating Steffi Graf's feat in 1988 - that is a Calendar Golden Slam? For me, unlikely; but if there is going to be one, hopefully that "special one" is Federer - for that is likely to be his last bow :)

  • Comment number 23.

    Novak played the best tennis ever seen. End of.

  • Comment number 24.

    Re 18:
    You bring up a great point about Fed's season which was remarkable. BUT, the main reason "he did this with the weight of expectation on his shoulders" was because he simply did not have the same competition as there is today.
    Year end rankings 2006 (Rafa was obviously number 2):
    3 Davydenko, Nikolay
    4 Blake, James
    5 Ljubicic, Ivan
    6 Roddick, Andy
    7 Robredo, Tommy
    8 Nalbandian, David
    9 Ancic, Mario
    10 Gonzalez, Fernando

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Roddick is the only Grand Slam winner on this list away from Rafa at number 2 of course. I don't measure winning Slams as the be all and end all, but Roddick was the only consistent year end top-10 finisher on this list away from Rafa. The past 3-4 years has seen an amazing consistency in the top 10 finishers from number 6 to number 1.

    The current crop is very very different in terms of depth of talent and most importantly, fitness. I agree with number 10's comment above that this year's US Open final was the best display of tennis and fitness that we've ever seen. Let's hope it continues, but let's hope that their fitness is not aided in any other way other than hard work because the mind boggles at how they keep their standard so high.

  • Comment number 25.

    #19 Achnacarry10

    Federer vs Nadal head to head stats - Facts: Federer (9) Nadal (17)

    Nadal has Federers number, 1 end of season win does not change the facts, no matter the score. Have you forgotten the 2008 French Open final score: 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 to Nadal in a GRAND SLAM final. That was a master piece humiliation in front of the world of Federer by Nadal, more especially at a time when Federer was in top form, mid season as against end of season.
    We love Federer in the tennis world for his achievements on and off the court, but sports is a thing of facts, Nadal has Federers number period

  • Comment number 26.

    why oh why are we talking about Nadal! look at history,look at RF! the man is the best! as per Nadal and Novo...100 Finals 70wins!... when Nadal has won 16 GS not
    10...16GS lets talk..the same goe's for Novo..intill then be a fan off your player support him in every way you can,but deep down we all hail the king! which is RF the best tennis player ever..

  • Comment number 27.

    Federer's 2006 was never better. Didn't he lose 4 time out of 6 meetings against his main rival Nadal and probably his only competition that year.

  • Comment number 28.

    @bdyke04

    "...more especially at a time when Federer was in top form..."

    Mmm...not really.

    But this thread isn't about Federer versus Nadal. Congratulations to Novak for an incredible season. I have to agree with a poster above: the consistent intensity of the USO final is difficult to put into words. But it was a very different sort of tennis: gruelling baseline rallies. I prefer a more varied game.

  • Comment number 29.

    @ 24 you can only beat what is put before you. Your argument is valid towards the Laver '69 season where he often beat amateurs on his way to tournament finals.

  • Comment number 30.

    Nadal is superior to Federer on clay, which is unsurprising as I don't think many would argue against the suggestion that Nadal is the greatest ever clay court player. Nadal is ahead 12-2 on clay but behind 7-5 on other surfaces. The reason that the head to head is so skewed is that Federer has been the second best player on clay for many years and has reached finals only to be beaten by Nadal. This has not applied to the same degree on other surfaces thus depriving Federer of more chances to win on the surfaces where he is superior.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ bdyke
    "1 end of season win does not change the facts" I think you need to look at the indoor stats of the matchup between them, especially at the WTF. The facts are Federer can sill reach 5th gear at times during his matches and make his opponents look ordinary. Meanwhile Nadal's 5th gear is no longer enough. Moonballing to Fed's backhand earned him a bagel. Bon Apetit.

  • Comment number 32.

    #30 really stupid comment...

    Are you that bad at maths?? other surfaces 12 matches is almost as much as 14.. and you sound like federer far fewer oppurtunities.. now if he had been a good boy and won 10-2 on other surfaces the score would have been much more even..

  • Comment number 33.

    In terms of win/loss ratio, djoko's season is not the greatest ever.
    In terms of titles and caliber of opponents he has beaten then probably his season is the greatest.
    I don't think it can be more simply put

  • Comment number 34.

    @Russeljones & @Edinburgh the red nosed ranger we are talking about their head to heads not a particular surface or indoor/outdoor. The facts are Nadal became a pro 3 years after Roger, Nadal is 5 years younger than Roger. They are preety much even on hard court and grass (5-4 hard, 2-1 grass to Federer), Nadal has outclassed Federer on clay (12-2), Federer has not beating Nadal on clay in a slam, while Nadal has beating Federer on his favorite grass (remember the tears in 2008 which came after the earlier bagel at Roland Garros) and on hard court

    No doubt Roger is a great player, but the fact is Nadal has his number especially when it comes to big game finals (clay court included until if it ever stops being an official playing surface). I am certain where i'll put my money if they meet in a finals in 2012, are you?

  • Comment number 35.

    When I booked my tickets to the ATP World Finals I bought semi-final and final tickets to make sure I would see the Fed, the most expensive being the semi-final ones because I didn't think he would make the final...how wrong I was! Noone can touch Federer in his recent form including a fully fit Tsonga who pushed him to the limit. Djokovic, Nadal, Tsonga, etc. are all younger and stronger than the Fed but what he lacks in those departments he makes up for the beauty, elegance and technique he has in playing the game...Federer doesn't put as much stress on his body as the others because he doesn't need to. He is, Simply the Best, Ever!

  • Comment number 36.

    #32 Only if you take it in an incredibly simplistic fashion as you have done.

    I didn't think it needed spelling out but here goes. The suggestion is that Nadal is much better than Federer on clay whilst Federer is better than Nadal on other surfaces but not by the same margin. There are also far more tournaments on hard and grass combined than on clay so if Nadal had performed similarly on other surfaces to Federer on clay there would be far more meetings on other surfaces rather than more clay i.e reflecting the balance of tournaments in a season. He hasn't and therefore there are far more clay meetings than you might expect and that favours Nadal in a head to head comparison.

  • Comment number 37.

    #34

    I was merely pointing out that the head to head is somewhat misleading. Your stats show that outside clay courts Nadal does not have Federer's number as you put it. They are also 2-2 in grand slam finals outside clay courts.

    To answer your question I would back Nadal on clay and Federer on other surfaces.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hmmm... not sure I believe the bit about not scripting commentary, at least in the case of certain commentators. Clive Tyldesley definitely does it - depending on which way a big match is going by about the 88th minute, he invariably wheels out a monologue about the historical significance of the result and whatnot. It's amusing when he's either in the middle of his latest oration or has already finished it when late goals turn things on their head - the 1999 Champions League final being the most extreme example.

    Anyway, Djokovic. I don't think I was alone in thinking that he would be permanently #3 as long as Nadal and Federer remained in anything like their best form, perhaps winning the occasional major here and there but certainly not dominating the sport they those two have for 6-7 years. How wrong can you be eh! He looks likely to outlast both of them now, and he's clearly better than Murray, so if he stays fit then the record book is his oyster. That is a fairly big "if" though.

  • Comment number 39.

    #38 I agree. He has surprised everyone this year and it is difficult to see why he couldn't go on to dominate for another two or three years as Federer is past his best and Djokovic's game matches up very well against Nadal.

    I'm not sure that his 2011 is the best year ever but it's definitely one of them.

  • Comment number 40.

    Seeing loads of drivel being spoken by people (most likely Federer fans) trying to understate how good Djokovic's year has been.

    He went unbeaten for over half the season in the presense of Federer and Nadal, two of the best players of all time, made mincemeat of Nadal on clay and other finals which no one has ever done in the past and played some of the best tennis any fan will see for years.

    Will he match last season next year? Probably not.

    But what he has proven is that if he stays at 100% he's arguably now the best player in the world and it'll be interesting to see if Murray can break his grand slam duck next year in the presence of 3 genuine world beaters.

  • Comment number 41.

    bdyke04, as someone else has said this isn't a Nadal/Federer thread. I do however think that saying Rafa has Roger's number now justified by a result over 3 years old compared to one three weeks ago is stretching it. On clay yes Rafa is still number 1, but post injury on any other surface I'd expect Roger to come out ahead (and especially indoors where Rafa has never been at his best.)

    #38 beardsmore - are you discounting anyone else challenging Djokovic outside the current top 4. Tsonga?? Fully fit Del Potro?? I do think your "if" on Djoko's fitness is a very big one indeed.

  • Comment number 42.

    i'd like to add,your only as good as the last tournament in which all the top 8 were in!! oh look who won it for a not 5th time BUT 6th time!! can some body pls tell me how meny times the Great Nadal & Novo have won this,you might want to use one hand! come on guy's End off Fed the goat..

  • Comment number 43.

    .
    Jonathan

    Djokovic's present tally of 70-6 isn't a bad record at all despite Federer and McEnroe scoring better. The guy hasn't reached his best as yet, just you wait.

    What baffles me though is why year after year Wimbledon increases the amount of prize money to be contested. We are no longer a Tennis Nation, apart from Murray who happens to be Scottish, we have absolutely no one to call a tennis player in England.

    Should not the England Tennis and Racquet Club divert some of their loots to recruiting and training youngsters in the art of tennis-playing?? Or are we just content in massaging our over-inflated Ego and dish out the loot to foreign players to take home to Mum and Dad????

  • Comment number 44.

    Achnacarry10 - fair point. Personally I would indeed put my fiver on the slams all being won by ND/RN/RF next year, but Tsonga or one of the Argentines might win one. Both Federer and Nadal are (for different reasons) at stages in their careers where they could disappear from the picture with surprising speed, so these things are hard to predict. Certainly wouldn't bet against a "top four" of Djokovic-Tsonga-Nadal-Murray (for example) within a year/18 months.

  • Comment number 45.

    @ 43 a few more actually

    Highest Season Winning Percentage
    1. John McEnroe (1984) .965 82–3
    2. Jimmy Connors (1974) .959 93–4
    3. Roger Federer (2005) .953 81–4
    4. Roger Federer (2006) .948 92–5
    5. Björn Borg (1979) .933 84–6
    6. Ivan Lendl (1986) .925 74–6
    7. Roger Federer (2004) .925 74–6
    8. Ivan Lendl (1985) .923 84–7
    9. Ivan Lendl (1982) .922 106–9
    10. Björn Borg (1980) .921 70–6
    = Novak Djokovic (2011) 0.921 70-6

  • Comment number 46.

    To watch him dismantle Nadal in the heat of Miami (before Roma) was majestic. Bravo!

  • Comment number 47.

    I think next year will be similar to this year, although with maybe a slight dip from Novak. Djoker to beat Nadal, Nadal to beat Fed, Fed to go 50/50 with djoker. Murray to beat all 3 but not in slams.

    I posted on 606 last year that wouldnt it be nice if 4 slams were won by 4 guys. As much as I love tennis it seems that each year someone dominates, first Fed, then Nadal then Djoker.

  • Comment number 48.

    Matt Stone - it's the latter. Britain simply does not play tennis seriously. We have produced all of TWO good male players in the past 35 years and it's debatable whether we could even say Murray was "produced" here (which is no disrespect to him - he took the wise decision to learn/improve his game elsewhere). Little (population-wise) Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, Australia and Serbia have no trouble producing world-class grand slam winners - different countries just have different sporting priorities I guess, and our overwhelming preference for team sports over individual sports is probably a factor too.

    Wimbledon seems to have gone the way of Royal Ascot, Henley and any number of fashionable quasi-sporting gatherings - it's a high-society money-making machine. We don't play tennis seriously enough to produce top-class players more than any nation would by pure chance, and I doubt that would change even if more money were pumped into the game. The demand and motivation to play just isn't there.

  • Comment number 49.

    Can Djokovic maintain his form next year? Well he's already lost his form! Clearly tiredness/injury has played a role in his end of year losses, but it was always unlikely he'd be able to maintain the standard. The AO in January will be a huge test for him. I would be surprised if has anything like as successful a year next year, but of course he will still be up there and most likely winning at least a slam or two.

  • Comment number 50.

    3. Roger Federer (2005) .953 81–4
    4. Roger Federer (2006) .948 92–

    This was however during the weak era of tennis. It was after Sampras and Agassi and before Nadal and Djok really stepped it up. During those years all Federer had as opposition was Hewitt, Roddick and Safin who were all either inconsistent or very one dimensional. Djokovic's record is far more impressive and the only reason he lost 6 in the year was because he played when he shouldn't have.

  • Comment number 51.

    @ 50 haha

    The age-old 'weak era' argument. And that "the only reason he lost 6 in the year was because he played when he shouldn't have" is ironic, considering he withdrew to avoid a loss on his record.

    'Weak era' is an argument reserved for Federer's detractors. The same people who revel in their favourite players defeating the 'old' maestro, oblivious to the irony of pointing at ageing opponents in Federer's time and their own favourites' mixed succes vs said 'old' maestro.

    Anyone trying to detract from the historical importance (albeit as a competitive player still) and incredible magnitude of Federer's record, is only making himself look incompetent in the eyes of those with even minimal knowledge of the sport's history

  • Comment number 52.

    like i say Stats and records do not lie! it's nice to see people supporting there players with there comments, and why not!! but in truth and at the end off the day.. there can only be one! and that is Roger..there is nothing any body can do or say..as you have to win to get to the top!! and the last time i looked Rafa had 10GS and novo had 4GS!.. so guy's there you go

  • Comment number 53.

    I fancy Del Potro to go far in Australia, he looked good in the Davis Cup and with a proper break and pre-season training he'll hopefully be back to his best next year.

    Bit surprised only one person has mentioned Nadal's season last year, I think his clay court achievements overshadow anything else he wins.

  • Comment number 54.

    Russeljones - good comment. As a supporter of the England cricket team I'm well used to this phenomenon - for most of the 1980s and 1990s beaten out of sight by brilliant West Indian, Australian and Pakistani teams. Over the last ten years, we've beaten them all by handsome margins, but the immediate retort from all the snipers is that these teams are now not as strong as they used to be. No consideration is given to the fact that the England teams of old were themselves weak, sometimes extremely so. Same situation with regard to the critics of Federer's recent career - and indeed Sampras has received similar criticism for dominating the allegedly "easy" 1990s.

    True enough, the competition isn't always of exactly the same standard in every era. There's no way it could be. But equally there's no way of proving that e.g. Federer ca. 2006 wasn't the best by such a wide margin that even if Nadal ca. 2009 or Djokovic ca. 2011 had been teleported back in time to take him on, he wouldn't have beaten them easily too. One thing that can't be measured is the capacity of a dominant champion to raise his game - as he's rarely tested, we have no way of knowing how much extra he can give if it's demanded of him.

    So instead of making these kind of second guesses (which are clearly only motivated by a desire to downplay his achievements), it's wiser to let the record speak for itself.

  • Comment number 55.

    Djokovic's achievement this season is awesome, that's pretty much universal. But at what cost ? His physical condition severely deteriorated towards the end of the season when he should have just listened to his body and taken a break.

    Like Nadal, I fear Djokovic is over-playing now and will be burnt out by the time he's 26. Nadal has decided to run his knees off (he's crazy but he's knows better what he wants to do) and he just doesn't have the intensity he had 2 years ago. While Federer hasn't got the sheer physical strength Nadal or (now) Djokovic have, he is still able to play at something close to his top-level (which not a lot of players can say) now that he's in his 30s.

    Nadal and Djokovic (the former moreso than the latter) don't seem to be interested to be at the top in the long run, although it would require that we see them play over a period of at least 5 years, I'd wait before I say Djokovic is an actual great of tennis, he's well on his way to become one but 2 or 3 more seasons like this one will cement his place in the history books.

  • Comment number 56.

    He has had the BEST SEASON of the modern era and has told Fed and Nadal to EAAAT IT, Again and Again, Loudly, In an accent and in a Foreign Language.

    We won't see a season like this for a while.

  • Comment number 57.

    Regarding 29, At 11:22 15th Dec 2011, Russeljones wrote:
    @ 24 you can only beat what is put before you. Your argument is valid towards the Laver '69 season where he often beat amateurs on his way to tournament finals.


    Good point, and I'm sure that you understand mine. Roger had one rival in 2006 in Rafa. Nole had 2-3 main rivals this past year (Roger, Rafa, and to some extent Murray).

    I'm sure Mr Murray, of whom I'm a big fan of his game, would have liked to be in Richard Krajcek's shoes in the 1996 Wimbledon final with MaliVai Washington in front of him.

  • Comment number 58.

    Look, Federer is 30, Nadal is 25, Djokovic is 24. Let's all come back and compare when their careers are finished. Rafa and Nole could do quite a bit in 5 to 6 years. Or they may not... BUT let's remember what Nole did in a year when the depth of talent and fitness in the game is at its highest ever for the top 15 to 20 players.

  • Comment number 59.

    @ td31
    "Look, Federer is 30, Nadal is 25, Djokovic is 24" = This is a hint for you.

    "the depth of talent and fitness in the game is at its highest ever for the top 15 to 20 players." = entirely made up assessment. I am quite sure you couldn't name more than 10 of the current top 20 players. So why should I believe your statement about the state of today's top 20 vs the 20 of "ever"? Take care when you generalise like that.

    The fitness can't be all that high when the current world #1 is only good for 9 months of the year and has to withdraw from matches. Have a look at Federer's withdrawals and medical timeouts.

  • Comment number 60.

    It would surely be fair to say that, when fully fit, he lost only one match during a gruelling 11-month season. Would it therefore also be fair to say that Djokovic was ultimately penalised for his success?
    ------------------------------

    Pretty shallow chain of thought, you are making the assumption that a fully fit Djokavic would have beaten all comers.

    The fact is that staying fit throughout the season is part of the game, which makes Federer´s season (2006 I think) superior.

  • Comment number 61.

    Well done to novak on what can only be described as a magnificent year in tennis, whilst at the same time pointing out it MUST have been the most exhausting too.

    To put it briefly novak has dominated a calendar year of tennis up against the stiffest, fittest and most talented competition that i have ever known whilst watching the game. I am a massive federer fan but must admit that federer did not have to play the kind of competition novak has played this year, to cement this point of how inferior the competition of federers was, who else from his era is still competing today? and i mean competing not playing? I can think of none bar roddick (occassionally!). CONTINUED.........

  • Comment number 62.

    Im not in any way trying to pull federers achievements down but he was playing in an era where the competition simply wasn't good enough. The reason federer gets beat regularly now by novak and rafa has nothing to do with his age or his mindset, the guy is still probably one of the fittest and best at staying fit on the tour, its simply because there standard of competition is much better than previous challengers to the federer throne.

    Take those two and possibly a couple more out of the equation and federer would still be world No1 and dominating tennis today. However there not out of the equation, far from it and the fed express will have to continue his form from the end of this season the entire next season long to compete. CONTINUED AGAIN.......

  • Comment number 63.

    the greatest player ever?? yes, without a doubt, he plays with a style un-matched by his rivals when hes on song and can still beat any one in the game today.

    The gratest era, based purely on the standard out there, must be dedicated to the players we have right now who are creating things on a tennis court that we thought impossible, every final of a slam exceeds the next and how many times in the last year or two has the term "the greatest match ever" been used....

    It truly is a fierce competition in the mens game at present, id say the fiercest ive ever seen, only emphasizing the fact that what djokovic has done is a truly wonderful thing. although statistically it isn't the best, when we look at the record books in years to come im sure a few opinions will change, based purely on the calibre of opponent djokovic has beaten this year.

    Well done Novak.
    (Couldnt write it in 1 comment then had to wait 3 minutes to post the next piece, sorry for any confusion)

  • Comment number 64.

    simmotee123 your opinion is so half-baked I will not even bother to deconstruct it. You clearly cannot comprehend the futility of comparing achievements from one decade to another. But I will throw you a bone. Novac beat the most jaded and least inspired Nadal since the latter broke out onto the pro circuit. Novac lost to Federer one of two matches that mattered between them this year, the other he fluked to stay in. There you go, think about how inflated your estimation of the opposition is and how fortunate the boy was.

  • Comment number 65.

    Fair point russelljones but to say nadal was un-inspired is ridiculous!!! he reached the final of three slams but was outplayed by a better opponent (novak) in two of them and won the other, nothing to do with his lack of inspiration!!!

    Fair enough head to head with federer last year there was nothing between them, with luck playing a part in one affair, but to then undermine the opposition ive talked about as being overrated and djokiovic being fortunate this season is just laughable.

  • Comment number 66.

    It truly is a fierce competition in the mens game at present, id say the fiercest ive ever seen, only emphasizing the fact that what djokovic has done is a truly wonderful thing. although statistically it isn't the best, when we look at the record books in years to come im sure a few opinions will change, based purely on the calibre of opponent djokovic has beaten this year.
    -------------------------

    One could also argue that the fact that 1 guy seems to win 3 slams every year (Fereder 3 times, Nadal, Djokovic) and no-one else gets a look in could point to the fact that maybe the era is not as competitive as we´d like to think.

    Tennis has improved, so have the players, but that doesn´t mean the era is stronger.

    Federer dominated for several years and was clearly responsible for a great improvement in mens tennis .... is there any coincidence that Djoko had such a great year when the other top 2 seemed off their game?

  • Comment number 67.

    Let's hope next year is Murray's year!!!!

  • Comment number 68.

    #66

    A fair point again but this is the year that novak has really established himself in the game (although there was always a feeling he would come good) as a world beater in the sport. Just when we didn't think it was possible because of nadal and federer. Who at the start of the season tipped a year for djokovic like the one hes had?? I certainly didn't. Its a fair point that the top 4 are always at the end of each tournament but how often has it been where any one of them could end up winning it, not to mention the players just behind them. (tsonga, del potro, etc.). There is no outright dominant force anymore which makes this era competitive.

    Continued…… (dam computer, any ideas why i cant post a longer comment??)

  • Comment number 69.

    #66

    "Tennis has improved, so have the players, but that doesn´t mean the era is stronger"

    dont understand your thinking here? how can a better standard of game and player not represent a stronger era of the game??

    "is there any coincidence that Djoko had such a great year when the other top 2 seemed off their game?"

    Just because federer and nadal lost to djokovic last season is not a reason to suggest they were off there game, they were just outplayed by a stronger opponent. Where do you get the impression they were off there game?? sometimes your game just isn't not good enough......

  • Comment number 70.

    Okay, Many of you make valid points and stats can be argued any way you wish. my opinion is that the level of tennis was at its highest it has ever been in the 2011 US final, Djoker won. next highest French semi 2011 Federer won. Next highest 2009 US final Del Potro won. Next highest 2008 Wimbledon final & Australian final 2009 Nadal won. If Djoker maintains his US final level then I do not think any will beat him, however I did not think anyone would reach the level displayed by Federer and Nadal in those earlier finals and all 3 of them and Del Potro surpassed it. The biggest shame is that Federer surly will not be able to sustain those levels again as age has already slowed him a touch even though now his tennis is better than when he was at his physical peak. I hope he proves me wrong and that the 4 of them and Tsonga if he can raise his game battle out matches in the slams at this unbelievable standard. then who cares who wins!!!

  • Comment number 71.

    "simmotee123 your opinion is so half-baked I will not even bother to deconstruct it. You clearly cannot comprehend the futility of comparing achievements from one decade to another. But I will throw you a bone. Novac beat the most jaded and least inspired Nadal since the latter broke out onto the pro circuit. Novac lost to Federer one of two matches that mattered between them this year, the other he fluked to stay in. There you go, think about how inflated your estimation of the opposition is and how fortunate the boy was."

    So you're trying to beat one alleged broken argument with your own totally broken argument?

    We can all agree that Fed is not at his best and hasn't been for a couple of years. This does make it difficult to judge head to heads as Nadal and Djok are in or entering peak periods whilst Fed is past his. But there is no way you can honestly try and convince people that this era is not superior in terms of world class talent to Fed's dominant era. Hewitt, Roddick and Safin have never been as good as Djok, Nadal and Federer. Dominating in this era is far harder because of the other two world class players you have to beat in order to win a slam and this isn't even taking into account guys like Tsonga and Murray who I would wager are better players than Hewitt, Roddick and Safin ever were

  • Comment number 72.

    Decent write-up, John, and a good choice of word to describe Novak's 2011.

    don't remember any of this talk in Fed glory days, though....why, because he could and still can't dominate his main rival.

    What Novak did was sublime.

    Any true tennis fan will recognise it. Blinkered ones won't. Nole demolished everything in his path. He was not going to be denied even the few blades of Wimbledon grass.
    No, that boy lives his life and plays his tennis with a full-bodied passion.

  • Comment number 73.

    Really annoys me when journalists say things like 'never to be repeated', 'won't see this again,' and the like. The nature of sport is the drive for dominance, and records are made to test yourself against. The fact that records exist mean that, eventually, they will be broken. 'Never' is, after all, a very long time indeed.

  • Comment number 74.

    Jonathan, I am a huge Djokovic fan, but while Djokovic's season this year is outstanding, it certainly is not "outrageous".

    Of the five biggest championships in tennis, Djokovic failed to reach the French Open final and was a flop at the sub-slam World Tour Finals. In terms of win-loss, Djokovic's 2011 season (70-6) is joint tenth with Bjorn Borg's 1980 season (also 70-6) since the ATP era began in 1973. Djokovic's six defeats were to six different players, ranked No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, No. 9, No. 17 and No. 32.

    This year Federer also played 76 matches -- and even travelled 21,000 miles and suffered jet lag after the US Open to play three Davis Cup matches in Australia -- yet he never lost to a player ranked lower than No. 19 (just two weeks earlier, Tsonga had beaten the defending Wimbledon champion Nadal at London's Queen's Club).

    In 2009 Djokovic played 97 matches (losing 19) comprising 2,249 games. This year Djokovic played only 76 matches comprising only 1759 games -- yet we are supposed to believe the spin from the Djokovic camp that 2011 Djokovic is suddenly not fully fit when he loses matches? Moreover, Djokovic's 2011 season is 21 matches less and 660 games less than Federer's 2006 season of 97 matches comprising 2,419 games played in every part of the season (even Asia), yet Federer still found the energy to travel to India and visit tsunami orphans for two days at Christmastime in 2006. Only a naive pundit would think Federer did not have to deal with multiple injuries, fatigue and motivation throughout 2006. The difference between Federer and the perennial excuse-making Djokovic/Nadal, is that Roger rarely whines about ailments or makes excuses (unless he lost to a rare player he dislikes)

    Djokovic was not ultimately penalised for his success. Had Djokovic stayed within his limits in the first three quarters of the year, he would never have achieved this level of success even before Wimbledon. Like Nadal (who lasts barely half a season), Djokovic fizzled at the three quarter mark of the 11 month ATP season for a simple reason: his success was never sustainable. Djokovic pushed himself beyond his limits in training since December 2010 so ultimately his success was not sustainable beyond three-quarters of the season (Djokovic was like a marathon runner who put all his effort and reserves to surge to a massive lead at the three-quarter mark, then fizzled in the last quarter). Furthermore, Djokovic's recent success between July 2010 to September 2011 appears to be correlated to his employment of the multidisciplinary alternative medicine doctor Igor Cetojevic (who does much more than just gluten-free diets). Unless Doctor Igor rejoins his team this month, it's unlikely Djokovic will regain his magic mojo in time for the Australian Open.

    Federer has three seasons on the win-loss top ten list -- 2005 (81-4), 2006 (92-5) and 2004 (74-6) -- better than Djokovic, who barely made that list at joint tenth. In three different seasons (2004, 2006, 2007), Federer won three majors in a season and still had enough in the tank to finish strong with the year-ending World Tour Finals title. In each of those years, Federer won more matches (and played far more games) than Djokovic did this year. In 2006, Roger Federer won 92 of the 97 matches played. Federer lost to only two players, ranked No. 2 (three times on Nadal's favourite clay surfaces) and No. 21. In 2006 (and again in 2007), Roger Federer won four of the five biggest championships in tennis (Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open, World Tour Finals) and still reached the final of the French Open. Federer is the only male player in tennis history who has won 27 grand slam matches in a single year, which even Rod Laver did not accomplish in 1969 or 1962 (the 1969 Australian Open was only 5 rounds, missing many top players and Australians made up the majority of the 48-player field). After 2006 Cincinnati, Federer started a 41-match winning streak.

    Had Djokovic shut down his season after New York -- and skipped the indoor season -- it would have been the coward's way to get into the record books. In 2006, had Federer skipped the clay season (like Connors did in 1974 after he was banned from the French Open -- Connors was a loser on European red clay at the time) and played a lot of minor tounaments with few top 30 players (like Connors did in 1974 playing a minor tour run by his own manager) Roger have probably ended the season better than 76-2. In the 2 remaining matches had Federer given injury retirements to Nadal and Murray (once it became obvious he wasn't going to win), some pundits might have said it would surely be fair to say a fully fit Federer would have lost no matches in 2006... and that Federer was ultimately penalised for his success.

    Let's stop embellishing Djokovic's 2011 season beyond what it actually was.

  • Comment number 75.

    In 1984, John McEnroe more outrageously beat his two main rivals among top three ranked players -- two of the all-time greats, Lendl and Connors -- a total of 12 times that year, of which John won 8 matches in straight sets (McEnroe beat each top three player a total of 6 times, losing only once to Lendl 5-7 in the fifth set of the French Open -- his weakest surface).

    But pundits are awed that Djokovic beat his two main rivals - Nadal (he is still an all-time great, he's no GOAT yet) and the 30-year old Federer (only Federer and Laver have the qualifications to be considered the greatest of all-time) -- a total of 10 times in the year, of which only 4 were in straight sets.

    - Beating Nadal six times was not as impressive as it is portrayed. Djokovic had turned the tables on Nadal since 2009 -- Nadal has beaten Djokovic only twice since 2009 Madrid, but has lost nine matches. Despite his career best 2010 season, Nadal lost 15 matches this year, 9 of which were to players not named Djokovic (such as Ivan Dodig and Florian Mayer, huh?). By January, Nadal appeared headed for a lackluster 2011: in Doha, Nadal was bageled 0-6 by No. 89 Lukas Lacko (Lacko was crushed by Federer two weeks later in a match which Mats Wilander said "I have never seen Roger or anyone ever play better than he did in the first two sets") and lost to Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets (Davydenko has a 6-4 winning record over Nadal) and lost to David Ferrer in the Australian Open (Ferrer has a 3-1 winning record over Nadal in grand slams and WTF) -- these losses happend two months before Nadal's first loss to Djokovic. Nadal had the benefit of watching a suddenly-improved Djokovic catch Federer by surprise in three matches between the 2011 Australian Open and Indian Wells, yet had no answer for Djokovic over the next seven months. Nadal was unable to adapt his rigid 'A Game', which played right into Djokovic's strengths. Yet the best player Nadal faced in 2011 was not Djokovic -- it was Federer who battered him 6-3 6-0 at the 2011 World Tour Finals, of whose performance Tim Henman said "I have honestly never seen anyone play better."

    - Djokovic has a 4-1 win-loss record over Federer, but it could easily have been a 3-5 losing record. Federer showed us at the French Open and even US Open that that -- among all players -- he most has what it takes to beat Djokovic in a grueling best of five-set match. Let's face it, Djokovic should have lost the US Open match when double match-point down against Federer (John Newcombe said: ''(Djokovic) was very lucky to win the US Open, because Roger should never have lost that match from where he was"). Djokovic could have faced three losses to Federer during the indoor season... had Novak not tanked the last set of his semifinal match against Nishikori who outplayed him since the second set in Basel (nothing was wrong with his legs in the third set yet he didn't make the effort to run down many balls), not given a walkover in the Paris Masters (where he would have faced Federer in the final if he did not succumb to Tsonga or Isner), and curious dubious losses to both Ferrer and his friend Tipsarevic at the World Tour Finals after Federer demolished Nadal. It appears likely that Djokovic chose to avoid facing and losing to a hot Federer indoors. Furthermore, Federer lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open because he didn't expect the suddenly-improved Djokovic and was caught off guard. Few saw Novak coming -- at the start of the Australian Open, betting agencies rated Djokovic only fourth to win the title. Since Indian Wells, Federer had begun reversing the momentum against Djokovic, something Nadal has failed to do.

  • Comment number 76.

    I see a tiny bit of value in having the GOAT debate now. I just wish we could wait until all of their careers are over before we engage in the petty confrontations that inevitably ensue.

    For the time being... ENJOY!!! We are allowed to feast on some of the greatest competitive sport in the world played at an incredibly high level. Just enjoy. That's all.

  • Comment number 77.

    I feel commentators have very short memories and poor imagination. Djokovic's season was great but why can it not be repeated? What overwhelming fact can ensure that say Andy Murray cannot repeat it?

    Federer's 81-4 was a more dominant year. Between his semifinal loss to Nadal at the French to losing to Nalbandian in 5 sets in the masters final, he was unbeaten.

    To say he played lower quality opposition is perhaps true but he dominated that year more than Djokovic has this year.

    Saying Djokovic was injured and that his stats have been marred by his subsequent losses is a bit childish. Federer would never have lost to Nalbandian in that masters final in 2005 had he not been injured. History will not remember it and no one forced Djokovic to play.

    All in all. Great year but I just don't find Djokovic's play entertaining. Federer and Nadal (for different reasons) bring something extra to the sport. Djokovic is robotic and while I wish him good luck, I yearn for a new Federer if the original is unable to repeat past successes.

  • Comment number 78.

    Nice posts BDF

    and @ 71... "So you're trying to beat one alleged broken argument with your own totally broken argument?" Broken how? You are presuming you KNOW that the current top players are better than the top players during the time when Federer compiled his 16 Grand Slam tournament wins. HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT? (using Caps to illustrate my incredulity). Did Skynet send you back from the future where in the distand 3088 the ATP could teleport players through time to have each play everyone at their prime?

    Do not compare on the basis of opposition. It's a weak argument, which smells of desperation.

    I am too lazy to check the total number of Grand Slam tournament winning players active when Federer won his first Grand Slam. Someone can maybe have a look at the respective number for the time when Djokovic won his. That should show that the players Federer had to beat were far from the semi-ameteurish club level some would have you believe.

  • Comment number 79.

    I am glad this blog/discussion isn't turning into another Murray love-fest. Usually you get 50% people saying how it's Murray's time and he's been really unlucky not to win a GS tournament already. The fact that we're still talking about Federer as a deciding factor in terms of year end #1, next year's GS tournament winners, Olympics gold winner etc. speaks volumes about the guy. It's funny but Federer's intellect allowed him to adapt his game to what we all thought would be the end of him - slowing courts - he is becoming much more dangerous, especially on the backhand side. The only downside is motivation. I just think he can only turn it on against Nadal and Djokovic. He feels so far superior to everyone else he sometimes plans to win with 65-75% and on occasion it just isn't enough (because he isn't '04, '05, or '06 Fed).

  • Comment number 80.

    Mr Russel Jones...

    Couldn't name the top 20? Really? Do you think someone who allegedly can't name the current top 20 pulled the contestants of the 1996 Wimbledon Final out of his backside...?

    Silly argument, but I guess you're the type of guy who bathes himself in "RF" Nike attire. Perhaps in your closet you also have a "Roger Me" sign just like that hilarious woman who showed it to the cameras at the O2 when Roger spaked Rafa that Tuesday night last month.

    I do not disagree with you that Federer is the greatest ever. For now. But a man 5 years his junior has a nearly comparable record already, and Djokovic's season was the best ever. I guess we'll agree to disagree.

    Remember Roger didn't pick up a racquet either from the beginning of September until mid-November. He only won three tournaments this year - one big one - and no Masters 1000s. Hey, I didn't even have to look that up!

    But my goodness, the vehement anger and defense of Roger Federer throughout this whole blog by your good self... If you don't already, perhaps start playing more tennis rather than watching (and perhaps fantasising about...?) the great man.

  • Comment number 81.

    Russel, we agree on something...

    Nice posts Bid Djokovic Fan. Well played - and without ranting, raving, or attacking anyone (like someone we know). I've only just read them after trying to stand up for myself from the Roger-lunatic bully.

    The one caveat I'll bring up again is the fitness levels. The courts have "slowed" the pace of the ball down. Otherwise we'd have Sampras-like matches where nobody had to move and no one would be watching. Watch top tennis coaches teach children how to play these days (I see it twice a week with my 7yr old son). The racquet doesn't get touched for the first 30 minutes of a session. It's ALL footwork and fitness because it now has to be.

    The game has changed over the past ten years. We now have amazingly large athletes who move around faster than ever on courts that have, believe it or not, slowed the ball down dramatically over the past ten years. It's made for better tennis viewing such as this year's US Open Final. (And for the record, you never-ever serve out wide on match point to a guy who you know has great forehand return - it creates too much of an angle. But I guess that was just Djokovic's luck....)

    It is for this reason that I think Djokovic's season was the best ever. Physically these guys can't take it anymore to play so many more matches as Bid Djokovic Fan has pointed out.

  • Comment number 82.

    @ td31 Re: "a man 5 years his junior has a nearly comparable record already, and Djokovic's season was the best ever."

    Couple of things to bring your claims into perspective:

    Most GS titles
    1. Roger Federer 16
    2. Pete Sampras 14
    3. Björn Borg 11
    4. Rafael Nadal 10
    5. Jimmy Connors 8
    = Ivan Lendl 8
    = Andre Agassi 8
    8. John McEnroe 7
    = Mats Wilander 7
    10. Stefan Edberg 6
    Boris Becker 6

    GS finals
    1. Roger Federer 23
    2. Ivan Lendl 19
    3. Pete Sampras 18
    4. Björn Borg 16
    5. Jimmy Connors 15
    = Andre Agassi 15
    7. Rafael Nadal 14
    8. John McEnroe 11
    = Mats Wilander 11
    = Stefan Edberg 11

    Consecutive GS finals
    1. Roger Federer 10
    2. Roger Federer 8
    3. Andre Agassi 4
    = Rod Laver 4
    5. Jimmy Connors 3
    = Björn Borg 3
    = Björn Borg 3
    = Björn Borg 3
    = Ivan Lendl 3
    = John McEnroe 3
    = Ivan Lendl 3
    = Ivan Lendl 3
    = Mats Wilander 3
    = Jim Courier 3
    = Jim Courier 3
    = Pete Sampras 3
    = Rafael Nadal 3

    GS semi-finals
    1. Jimmy Connors 31
    2. Roger Federer 29
    3. Ivan Lendl 28
    4. Andre Agassi 26
    5. Pete Sampras 23
    6. John McEnroe 19
    = Stefan Edberg 19
    8. Boris Becker 18
    9. Björn Borg 17
    10. Rafael Nadal 15

    Consecutive GS semi-finals
    1. Roger Federer 23
    2. Ivan Lendl 10
    3. Ivan Lendl 6
    = Novak Djokovic 6
    5. Novak Djokovic 5
    = Boris Becker 5
    = Nadal 5
    8. Rod Laver 4
    9. Tony Roche 4
    = John McEnroe 4
    = Andre Agassi 4
    = Jim Courer 4


    All Four Slams Per Year
    Rod Laver 1969

    Three Slams Per Year
    Jimmy Connors 1974
    Mats Wilander 1988
    Roger Federer 2004
    Roger Federer 2006
    Roger Federer 2007
    Rafael Nadal 2010
    Novak Djokovic 2011


    All Four Finals Per Year
    Roger Federer 2006
    Roger Federer 2007
    Roger Federer 2009
    Rod Laver 1969

    All Four Semi-finals Per Year
    Rod Laver 1969
    Ivan Lendl 1987
    Roger Federer 2005
    Roger Federer 2006
    Roger Federer 2007
    Roger Federer 2008
    Roger Federer 2009
    Rafael Nadal 2008
    Novak Djokovic 2011
    Andy Murray 2011

    Most consecutive matches won at one Grand Slam event:
    1. Björn Borg (Wimbledon), 41
    2. Roger Federer (Wimbledon), 40
    = Roger Federer (US Open), 40
    4. Pete Sampras (Wimbledon), 31
    = Rafael Nadal (French Open), 31

    Most consecutive Slams played:
    1. Wayne Ferreira 56
    2. Roger Federer 48
    3. Feliciano Lopez 39
    4. David Ferrer 37
    5. Fernando Verdasco 34
    6. Tomas Berdych 33
    7. Albert Montanes 21
    8. Philipp Kohlschreiber 29
    9. Nicolas Almagro 28
    10. Novak Djokovic

  • Comment number 83.

    Most Grand Slam match wins
    1. Jimmy Connors 233 wins
    2. Roger Federer 228
    3. Andre Agassi 224 wins
    4. Ivan Lendl 222 wins
    5. Pete Sampras 204 wins[/quote]

    Other Stuff:

    Year-End Championships
    1. Roger Federer 6
    2. Ivan Lendl 5
    = Pete Sampras 5
    4. Ilie Nastase 3
    = John McEnroe 3
    = Boris Becker 3

    Most Weeks at #1
    1. Pete Sampras 286
    2. Roger Federer 285
    3. Ivan Lendl 270
    4. Jimmy Connors 268
    5. John McEnroe 170
    6. Björn Borg 109
    7. Rafael Nadal 102
    8. Andre Agassi 101
    9. Lleyton Hewitt 80
    10. Stefan Edberg 72

    Consecutive Weeks at #1
    1. Roger Federer (1) 237
    2. Jimmy Connors (1) 160
    3. Ivan Lendl (1) 157
    4. Pete Sampras (1) 102
    5. Jimmy Connors (2) 84
    6. Pete Sampras (2) 82
    7. Ivan Lendl (2) 80
    8. Lleyton Hewitt (1) 75
    9. John McEnroe (1) 58
    10. Rafael Nadal (1) 56

    Year End #1
    1. Sampras 6
    2. Federer 5
    3. Borg 4
    4. Connors 3
    = Lendl 3
    = McEnroe 3

    And last but not least (again) this list of season winning percentages. You claim Djokovic's season was the best, well we cal clearly see he played the least matches of the top 10 highest % seasons and we also know he only reached 3 GS tournament finals and didn't make it out of the group stage at the WTF.

    Highest Season Winning Percentage
    1. John McEnroe (1984) .965 82–3
    2. Jimmy Connors (1974) .959 93–4
    3. Roger Federer (2005) .953 81–4
    4. Roger Federer (2006) .948 92–5
    5. Björn Borg (1979) .933 84–6
    6. Ivan Lendl (1986) .925 74–6
    7. Roger Federer (2004) .925 74–6
    8. Ivan Lendl (1985) .923 84–7
    9. Ivan Lendl (1982) .922 106–9
    10. Björn Borg (1980) .921 70–6
    = Novak Djokovic (2011) 0.921 70-6

    As far as saying who took part in the 1996 Wimbledon final, that really takes some serious tennis knowledge, my hat is off to you good sir.

  • Comment number 84.

    You can listen again to the 5 live Tennis special on Novak Djokovic on the BBC iPlayer until 22 December:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b018xt8q/5_live_Sport_5_live_Tennis_15_12_2011/

  • Comment number 85.

    @russeltjones

    congratulations there for listing off all those records of the top of your head, some "serious tennis knowledge" there. No-one here is suggesting that Roger Federer is not the greatest of all-time or that Djokovic is even close to claiming that title yet. It's not all about stats when judging how good a season is, the sheer quality and intensity of games that Djokovic played in was unparalleled. His record was also diminished by the injuries at the end of the season, to opponents who he would have beaten on top form. To not say a man winning 3 Grand Slams, remaining the first half the season unbeaten, consistently beating two of the best players of all time and for me most crucially dismantling the greatest clay court player of all time throughout the clay season makes this an unprecendented season of success and high quality tennis.

  • Comment number 86.

    Nole's 2011 was an outrageous season to be sure and certainly one of the best of all time. But to call it the best ever and mark it as unassailable is hyperbolic and probably due to how fresh it is in our minds. Is it better than Federer in 2006 when The Mighty Fed went 92-5 (92-5!!! won 22 more games than Nole!), 3 Majors, 12 of 17 tournaments and didn't burn out over the last 3 months winning the year-end Championships as well? Is it better than Laver's calendar slam in 1969 (Laver was 31 years old!)? McEnroe in 1984 (82-3)?
    The season is as long as it is. It's not legitimate for someone to drop out after the US Open with a great record and not compete for the tail-end knowing they don't have enough gas in tank. Had Nole done that it would have cast more doubt on his 2011 not less. The only undeniable fact is that he kept playing (which does him great credit) but he couldn't maintain the world-class level he hit over the first 9 months of the year. But in previous years other greats could.

  • Comment number 87.

    We have to remember that Djok beat Nadal (not Saffin, Roddick, etc, but Nadal) in 6 Finals, in 6 massive tournaments, 5 of them during arguably the most intense and competitive period of the season (I. Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome, French (although he didn’t win), Wimbledon). The standard of tennis during every match they played was so impressive – Nadal gave everything. The wins on clay were especially good – Nadal had no answer to Djok's game. Djok also beat Fed 3 out of 4 times during the season (2 in Slam Semi's and once in I. Wells semis, and seemed to be mounting a comeback in the French semi but couldn’t serve out the fourth for 2-2). To be slightly controversial, maybe Fed ended the season so well because his body and mind hadn’t been through the same as Nadal and Djok. In the past Djok has done well at the end of the season (Paris, Shanghai, and has been there or there about in London too) when Fed and Nadal had been contesting big finals earlier in the year!? Fed had lost to Nadal all year until London – as he doesn’t have an answer to Nadal when he goes high and heavy to his backhand ;) By the time they met in London Nadal was there for the taking, Djok had chewed him up and spat him out, Fed was there to lick up there scraps!

    The quality of the era is definitely a relevant argument. I'm not denying that you can only beat what's in front of you, but what's in front of you does differ in quality – Nadal, Fed, Djok, Murray, even Del Po are in a completely different league to the generation before when Fed won everything.

    So, yes, I think this season was the best ever! What made it even better was the fact that Djok – although a top class player prior to 2011 – came from nowhere to be so dominant! And in doing so tore Nadal to shreds, something we all though impossible!

    I'm confident 2012 will serve up tennis of the same quality!!

  • Comment number 88.

    All I can say is: Fascinating tennis season, Nadal was the World No. 1 at the start of the year and I'd argue he was most people's favourite to win most tournaments he contested in. When Djokovic started beating Nadal in finals I bet many suspected it wouldn't last. But 2011 was the year the apparent underdog went one better and it was brilliant for it.

    Djokovic is now the man to beat in 2012. Nadal could arguably get a worse confidence hit from his losses to Djok than Federer did after the big losses to his main rival (Nadal). The one consolation for Federer was that he was arguably already leaving his peak days behind him (27 years old at Wimbledon '08?) Whereas Nadal only turned 25 this year - should have no excuses as this should be his peak?? (Peaked too early I hear you think?! We'll have to wait til 2012 for the answer to that...)


    Bring on the start of 2012 and the return of the grand slams @ the Australian Open!
    The first thought I will be having after the countdown to New Years will be this (hate to say it but it's almost certainly going to happen):

    "5, 4, 3, 2, 1...HAPPY NEW YEAR"

    (Inner dialogue of Matt): "SWEET, MORE TENNIS SOON!!!!!"

  • Comment number 89.

    willhunter31 wrote:


    @russeltjones

    congratulations there for listing off all those records of the top of your head, some "serious tennis knowledge" there. No-one here is suggesting that Roger Federer is not the greatest of all-time or that Djokovic is even close to claiming that title yet. It's not all about stats when judging how good a season is, the sheer quality and intensity of games that Djokovic played in was unparalleled. His record was also diminished by the injuries at the end of the season, to opponents who he would have beaten on top form. To not say a man winning 3 Grand Slams, remaining the first half the season unbeaten, consistently beating two of the best players of all time and for me most crucially dismantling the greatest clay court player of all time throughout the clay season makes this an unprecendented season of success and high quality tennis.
    ====================================================

    If you had followed the discussion you would know that someone had as much as stated that it is only inevitable the younger Nadal and Djokovic would surpass Federer.

    Nowhere did I say I am quoting these records off the top of my head. They were compiled by TMF on Talk Tennis and are there for everyone to see.

    Is Del Potro better? He fluked one GS final, nothing more from the boy (sad injury).

    Murray? Underachiever overachiever, if he doesn't win a GS tournment this year he never will and will only be remembered for his foul language.

    Tsonga? Please remind me what he has done.


    Nadal on the other hand is a 1 in a billion clay specialist. Is it Federer's fault Nadal wasn't born several years earlier? Let me ask you this, had Nadal been born several years and played against Federer wouldn't the Swiss have caused Nadal's confidence irreparable damage? Just think back on the days when Federer played those 10 Grand Slam finals in a row. What would Nadal have done with himself after Roger opened the bakery store for bagel after bagel and breadstick after breadstick (tennis jargon). This example is ridiculous of course because we would never know. Just as you don't know how Nadal or Djokovic would have done against Federer's opponents of that particular time.

    Please drop the weak era argument, it's subjective and it really does insult my intelligence when someone is trying to pass off a subjective assessment (this era>that era) as a fact defining the context of the "greatest season" discussion.

    Important thing for people with selective memory, Djokovic was quoted as saying "I am at 100%" before WTF started. Enough said.

  • Comment number 90.

    I think a discussion about the greatest season has to take into account the era, as all seasons are particular to a certain era.

    As for Del Po, 2009 US Open wasn't fluke – people don't win Slams by fluke – he beat Nadal in the Semi's and Federer in 5 in the final! For me he was one of the stand-out players in 2009 (he took Federer all the way in the French semi as well). Will be interesting to see how he does if he stays injury free.

    Can't agree with bigdjokovicfan's speculative analysis of how things could've gone and Djok's motivation for avoiding Fed – crazy logic being applied here. Also don’t think Djok turned the tables on Nadal back in 2009, after all Djok was blown away in US Open final 2010 by Nadal. The tables turned this year and that's what makes it such a great and interesting season (after all Djok had never beaten Nadal in a Slam before Wimbledon this year).

  • Comment number 91.

    Roger-lunatic bully (aka Russel Jones)

    "If you had followed the discussion you would know that someone had as much as stated that it is only inevitable the younger Nadal and Djokovic would surpass Federer."

    Wrong answer:

    "Look, Federer is 30, Nadal is 25, Djokovic is 24. Let's all come back and compare when their careers are finished. Rafa and Nole could do quite a bit in 5 to 6 years. Or they may not... "

    Did you sleep well in your "RF" pajamas???

  • Comment number 92.

    "But a man 5 years his junior has a nearly comparable record already"

    Sigh...

  • Comment number 93.

    Jonathan Overend cites Federer's 81-5 in 2005. perhaps he should look a year later and find out that Federer's win loss in 2006 was a staggering 92-5. yes 92-5 and that included 3 Grand Slams, one GS runner up, and the WTF. as if to prove that 2006 wasnt a freak year, he went out and won those very same Slams and WTF the next year too.

    Djokovic has had a dream year, but to call it the best ever year for any player just because he beat Federer and Nadal 10 times this year is ridiculous.

    oh, by the way, Overend should look up who beat Djokovic in a slam this year.

 

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