During 2007 Australian Open, Roger Federer (then the undisputed World No:1) was playing a youngster called Novak Djokovic in the Quarter-Finals. The match was hyped up quite a bit by ESPN and I stayed up through the night and saw the thrashing Federer gave in that match. For the rest of 2007, Djoker reached French SF (lost to Nadal), Wimbledon SF (lost to Nadal) and US Open Finals (lost to Federer). Speak of improvement in a short span of time! Keep in mind this was just 4 years before! Who would have thought (in their wildest dreams) that in 2011, this same Djoker would be creating blisters on Federer’s and Nadal’s rear end.
As you will recall, immediately after 2007, it was a period of Nadal ascendancy and his 2008 and 2010 years were spectacular. Djoker must have been cursing his luck for having to play in this Federer-Nadal era. He lost a large share of the Grand Slams to one of these two guys. In fact Nadal had a great 2010 and that is what makes it even more shocking that just a year later, he has absolutely no answers for Novak Djokovic. In September 2010 (right after Nadal completed his Career Slam), I wonder how many people would have given Djokovic a chance to do what he has done in 2011.
Let us look at Djokovic’s 2011 more closely:
– Has won 3 (out of the 4) Grand Slams, beating No:4 (Andy Murray) and No:1 (Nadal) and No:2 (Nadal) respectively. He lost in the French SF to Federer, in his only “real” loss (Keep in mind the other loss at Cincinatti where he had to retire with an injury. Though it is a loss, I have no doubt in my mind that he would have smoked Murray otherwise).
– Has already (!!!) won 5 Masters 1000 Titles in 2011, beating Nadal in 4 of them! Federer and Nadal have never won more than 4 Masters titles in 1 year and this dude wins 5 already, out of 6. There are 3 Masters tournaments remaining.
– Now, the most amazing stat. Almost all tennis fans (including myself) acknowledge that Federer and Nadal are two of the greatest players of all time. In fact Federer, who is just past his prime, is considered widely as GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) and Nadal is well on his way for that title himself and is in his prime right now. These two guys have been smoked by Djokovic this year. Djokovic-Nadal is 6-0 (!) and Djokovic-Federer is 5-1 (!). Now this is really something … Beating Federer and Nadal once or twice itself is such a big thing and we are talking about two-digit victories against these two?
Since 2004, we have had 5 years (out of eight) where one player has won 3 of the 4 Slams! Now pause and think about that for a minute. Federer had such years in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Nadal had it in 2010. And now Djokovic has it in 2011. (On a side note: Federer in 2006 and 2007, missed the Grand Slam by 1 match, when he lost to Nadal in the French Finals each time. In 2010, Nadal lost in Australian QF and in 2011 Djokovic lost in French SF. But it is Djokovic’s “rest of the year” that makes it all the more special when compared against Federer’s and Nadal’s “3-out-of-4” years).
If you are a true Tennis fan, count your lucky stars that you live in this era and are able to enjoy such a 3-way rivalry.