The rise and rise of Novak Djokovic

2011-04-09 19:23

One of the most exciting sights in the ATP Tour this year has been watching Serbian Novak Djokovic destroy his opposition.

His sterling performances on the court have put him in the enviable position of being one match short of equalling the record set by the cool-as-
cucumber Ivan Lendl, remember him?

Way back in 1986, Lendl was unbeaten for 25 matches.

The 23-year-old Djokovic has gone for 24 matches unbeaten since the beginning of the year. This feat has seen him overtake Roger Federer in the rankings and he now finds himself ­ensconced between number one Rafael Nadal and Federer.

As we enter the clay season, Nadal’s favourite, Djokovic says: “He’s king of that surface, the guy to beat.”

There is a 3 179-point gap ­between them, with Nadal on 12 870 and the Serb on 9 700.

Federer trails Djokovic by 1 200 points with 8 500 overall.

Djokovic has already beaten both Nadal and Federer this year. He continued his domination in last week’s final of the ATP Miami Masters, beating Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.

However, he is the first to ­admit: “I’ve never beaten him on clay. Clay is the slowest ­surface that we have and it’s the surface that suits him best.”

Djokovic has promised to have a stronger clay court season this year than the previous one, but had an early setback as he had to skip this week’s ­tournament in Monte Carlo, due to ­injury.

The gap between the two ­players is very tight at the start of the clay season this month, with the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in ­Houston wrapping up this weekend, then culminating at Roland Garros on May 22, the day Djokovic celebrates his 24th birthday.

Nadal notched up an impressive 22-0 stampede through the clay season last year.

Djokovic remains upbeat, though, saying: “I think I have the game to challenge him on that surface as I showed in 2009, where we had a great match in the Monte Carlo final and the semifinal in Madrid. So it is possible.”

If the Serb maintains his ­blistering form, anything is ­indeed possible.

His good tidings have left ­tennis enthusiasts rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of great ­tennis to come.

Djokovic has brought a breath of fresh air into the game by breaking the monotony of the Nadal-Federer clashes that had become predictable.

– Additional information from AFP and Reuters 

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