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Novak Djokovic remains the number one player in the world.
Last I checked, Novak Djokovic is the number one player in the world. And how does that saying go? "To be the best, you have to beat the best?"
Doug Collins, the coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, had a great quote to Dei Lynum of CSNPhilly.com following his team's series-ending loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night: "It is great to be an overachiever, that’s great, but to be a champion you can’t overachieve."
In other words, Nadal may look better as of late, but is he playing at a level high enough to win another Grand Slam this year?
If Nadal is the "King of Clay," why did he lose three weeks ago in the ATP World Tour in Madrid in the round of 16 against fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco? The tournament was on clay.
He hasn't exactly proven himself among the top players this year, with losses to Andy Murray in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour in Miami in March and two weeks earlier to Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour in Indian Wells. He also lost to the brash Frenchman Gael Monfils in the semi-finals at Doha in Qatar in February.
In short, Nadal has been a shadow of his former self.
Djokovic, meanwhile, has been unstoppable. He won ten tournaments in 2011, including Grand Slam wins at Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the U.S. Open. Here are a few people you may have heard of commenting on Djoko's play all last season. Let's start with none other than...
Rafael Nadal: "Probably the highest level of tennis that I ever saw."
Pete Sampras: "One of the best achievements in all of sports."
Boris Becker: "One of the very best years in tennis of all time. May not be the best statistically, but he’s beaten Federer, he’s beaten Nadal, he’s beaten everybody that came around to challenge him in the biggest tournaments in the world."
This year, Djoko kicked off 2012 by winning the Australian Open, and went through some pretty tough competition to win it: Lleyton Hewitt, David Ferrer, Andy Murray and then (I hate to rub it in the face of Nadal fans), Rafael Nadal in what was the longest final in Open Era history.
Did that signify a changing of the guard?
Besides, Djoko knows he's got a lot at stake at this French Open. If he wins, he will have his career Grand Slam. Nadal nor Federer could boast what Djoko could -- four consecutive Grand Slams.
Although he defended his title in Miami, Djokovic did lose to Nadal in the Monte Carlo final and again at the Rome Masters final. But when the stakes are the highest, as they were most recently at the Australian Open, Djokovic seems to have Nadal's number as of late.