Is Djokovic’s 2011 the Best Year Ever?

Wait Until the Year Ends or Did 2011 End in NY?

There may be wisdom in letting the rest of 2011 play out before selecting Novak Djokovic’s  awesome season as the best ever single season.  Novak won the season ending championship in 2008 and adding a second season ending title would be a significant achievement.  Still, Novak’s 2011 has featured 3 Grand Slam titles with general domination over his peers at the top of the ranking list.  Novak has also won a record 5 Masters 1000/Masters Series/Super 9 events* with 2 more of these events remaining on the calendar.  This grouping of 9 more important events has only existed since 1990, but it is still significant that he has set this record so early in the season.

What About 2006?

Roger Federer did have a lower winning percentage in 2006 than Novak’s in 2011.  However,  Roger reached all 4 Grand Slam finals and was 2 sets removed from a calendar Grand Slam.  Roger won 4 Masters 1000 (Masters Series) events and won the season ending Masters Cup.  To be sure, reaching all 4 slam finals is better than not doing so.  I think winning 4 Masters 1000 point events and the Masters Cup/World Tour Finals is better than winning 5 Masters 1000 events.  Novak dominated his top competition more in 2011 than Roger did in 2006.  Roger won 12 titles in 2006 and to this point Novak has 10 titles.  My prudential judgment is that if Novak wins the season ending title or sweeps some other events remaining on the calendar he can pass what Roger achieved in 2006, but that Novak has not quite surpassed Roger’s 2006.

2 of 3 Losses Have Been Retirements

In one sense, Novak Djokovic only losing 1 match point all season is in his favor despite 3 losses showing up on his ledger.  In another sense, losing 2 matches based on an inability to physically finish is a strike against having the greatest year ever.  It is not as if the final of Cincinnati and a pivotal Davis Cup match were matches of low importance.  Novak could have won 6 out of 7 Masters 1000 events had he won Cincinnati.  He could have swept the 4 North American Masters 1000 events for the first time ever.   He could have swept the 6 most important outdoor hard court events in a single year for the first time ever.  Granted had he won Cincinnati, maybe his shoulder gives out in New York.

The match retirement versus Juan Martin del Potro in Davis Cup is more problematic.  The grueling match with Nadal undoubtedly makes this mid-match retirement quite understandable.  Still, Davis Cup success in 2010 is what propelled Novak in early 2011.  This was not a meaningless retirement.  The fact that Nadal and Federer completed 2 singles matches after the US Open ended also sends a cautionary note.

Titles in 2012  > Praise from ‘Experts’ in 2011

That US Open final was brutal on both players.  Nadal looked gassed at the end of the second set and somehow dug deep enough to come back from a break down 3 different times in the 3rd set.  Nadal had nothing left to give in the 4th set.  Novak was injured at some point in the 3rd set.  Credit Novak for finishing, but the brand of tennis they played was both electric and career shortening.  If I were part of Djokovic’s team, I might simply shut things down for 2011 with the possible exception of London.  Novak logged a lot of miles in 2011.  What good is the greatest year ever, if Novak’s 2012 is hampered by a bad back, shoulder or hip?  The title of greatest __________ ever is something people create and debate.  No one will debate who won the 2012 Australian Open once it is in the books.  I think Novak would be better served to follow sound medical advice (whatever it may be) regarding the remainder of 2011 so that he can parlay as much momentum and good health as possible into 2012.

* – Did the ATP ever consider that constantly changing the name of this series of tournaments hurts continuity.  I half expect the name Masters 1000 to be replaced by Masters Pi= 3.14 in the near future.

Here is Pete Sampras’ take on the matter 

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Jane says:

    I understand your point about Nole’s retirements. However, I disagree that the retirement against JMDP was “more problematic”. It was early in the match, not mid match, since it was the beginning second set of a five set match. Also, it was obvious in the USO final that Nole had an injury which he clearly carried into the DC match. So how could this be a problem? Everyone knows Nole has played and won a ridiculous amount of matches this year, so he was bound to feel wear and tear. He shouldn’t have even played that match!!! Most pundits concur. I find the Murray retirement a little more of a downer. It was the second set of a three set final. To me, he could have perhaps stuck it out, even taking a bagel in the second set if need be. It was almost over. But perhaps he knew rain was coming? Perhaps he didn’t want to risk hurting his shoulder more before the last slam. Maybe, if Berdych hadn’t’ve retired in the semi Nole would have. He had had shoulder issues since Toronto that became obvious in the Monfils match in Cincy. So. Tough calls. But to me, out of both retirements, I would have preferred to see him finish the Cincy final.

    1. Dan Martin says:

      I should have been more clear. I think the retirement was problematic in the sense that the next two guys in the rankings were not as injured after the USO as he was. I think any sort of back or hip issue is cause for concern. I agree he should not have played in the Davis Cup tie. I’ll have to re-read what I wrote because I saw the retirement as problematic moving forward and not as wow how could he retire in a Davis Cup match. I think he may need to take a decent chunk of time off before the start of next year is all.

  2. Ben Pronin says:

    4 Masters + YEC > 5 Masters. Federer’s 06 is so far untouchable. Unless Djokovic sweeps the next 3 Masters, ending with more prestigious events and more titles overall. I don’t know why people make such a big deal about win/loss percentage. Is there a big difference between 5 and 3 losses? But 92 wins is way bigger than 64 wins.

    What makes Djokovic’s year so amazingly significant is his dominance over the top guys. He’s lost to Murray, Federer, and Del Potro, guys he’s beaten more often than not this year. And he’s undefeated against Nadal. Federer was 2-4 against Nadal in 06. But besides that, Djokovic has a ways to go to surpass that season (not that much, but still something).

    1. Dan Martin says:

      I do think the domination over an obviously tough as nails Nadal on 3 surfaces is part of this. 64-3 vs. 92-5 does seem to swing Roger’s direction. I think Nole has had an incredible year. Ben, I agree though. Fed in 06 was really untouchable everywhere but clay and at Dubai vs. Nadal. Fed ended 06 2-4 vs. Nadal, but won the final two meetings at Wimbledon and the YEC.

  3. Jane says:

    Oh, thanks for clarifying Dan. I misunderstood what you meant. I hope he recovers. Then again, if he does, everyone will say it must’ve been the egg. lol! 😉

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