Novak Djokovic: Counting Down Djoker's Best Moments on Clay Courts
Novak Djokovic is one step away from achieving the ultimate feat in tennis. If he conquers the French Open, the Serb will finish off the "Career Slam," meaning he's won all four grand slams. If he wins it this year, it would also be his fourth consecutive grand slam victory.
It's no surprise Djokovic's talent on hard courts. He has won two Australian Opens and the US Open in 2011. He's also been in a final in the year ending grand slam. Djokovic wasn't considered a grass court player before he conquered Wimbledon, defeating Nadal in the final.
So, the clay is the only surface that Djokovic has not won a slam. However, he's had some winning moments on the red dirt.
Thus far in 2012, Djokovic has been in three clay court events. They include the blue clay of Madrid, the Italian Open in Rome and Monte Carlo. In those tournaments, Novak has lost to Nadal twice in the final and a surprising upset to Janko Tipsarevic.
This hasn't been the best season for Djokovic on clay. If he wins at Rolland Garros, that can all change.
Here's a look at some of the best moments Djoker has seen on clay courts.
In the 2008 masters in Rome, a young-looking Djokovic was able to take down Stan Wawrinka in the final, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. It was his fourth master series win and good for his 10th career singles title.
This was a solid moment in his career. At the time, Nadal was the dominant figure on clay. He was the guy to beat on the red dirt. Djokovic was ranked No. 3 in the world at the time, and he was always known as the guy behind Nadal and Roger Federer.
The 2011 season was very kind to Djokovic. He went undefeated until his semi-finals loss to Federer at the French Open. Novak played with aggression that we have never seen before.
One key tournament Djokovic won was in the 2011 clay court season. The Madrid Open, held from May 1 to May 8, saw Nole finally getting over the hump against Nadal on a clay court. He took down some big names, and hoisted the trophy for his first clay court tournament win of the season.
In the quarters, Djokovic saw a very tough opponent on the red dirt in David Ferrer. Djokovic was able to prevail 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. To beat such a hard-hitting opponent such as Ferrer must have given him the confidence to get past the ultimate test in the finals.
He lost another set in the semis to Thomaz Bellucci, but made it through to the finals, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Djokovic never had much success against Nadal on the clay. He made it look routine in a 7-5, 6-4 victory over the Spaniard.
This was a major confidence booster for Djokovic going on to Rome. His game and motivation was on new levels, and this tournament served as a bright spot in his career.
The Italian Open in Rome proved to be another milestone in Djokovic's career. After all, he defeated four ranked opponents on his way to the title.
In the third-round, the Serb saw Stan Wawrinka in a rematch of the 2008 Rome final. The way Novak was playing, however, was too much for the Swiss. Djokovic cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 victory.
Standing in the quarter-finals was Robin Soderling. I'm sure most of you remember how much success Soderling has had on clay. After all, he was the only player to defeat Rafael Nadal at the French Open. He made it to the 2009/2010 French Open finals as well. In 2010, he took out Federer.
Djokovic didn't seem phased, as he routinely took out the hard-hitting player from Sweden 6-3, 6-0. Nole was set for a semi-final encounter with Andy Murray.
Murray is known for his speed, array of shots and the hope for England at Wimbledon. He's been in some grand slam finals, but has never prevailed against Djokovic, Federer or Nadal in the big moments.
However, Murray took Djokovic to the limit. In a long encounter, Djokovic prevailed 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2). The showdown was all set for the finals with a rematch of Nadal and Djokovic.
The same outcome occurred. Djokovic defeated Nadal once again 6-4, 6-4. It was the second consecutive victory over Rafa on the red dirt.
2012 French Open: 5-Set Encounter
It was the Round of 16 at the 2012 French Open. Djokovic was set to take on Andreas Seppi. It was set to be a routine encounter for the world No. 1.
That it wasn't. Seppi took the first two sets after a very off day from Djokovic. The unforced errors were taking a toll on the Serb's game. Things weren't looking good. After all, Djokovic has only come back from 2 sets down only twice.
He did it this time. Djokovic was able to find his game when he needed it, defeating Seppi 4-6, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
A total of 81 unforced errors haunted Djokovic throughout the day, however. It was a very uncharacteristic type of day for him.
It also served him well. Djokovic found the will to win, the way true champions do. It was good to see him get pushed nearly out of the tournament and respond with such a champion's mentality. This test will provide him with extra confidence.
But, for him to prevail against opponents from here on out, he will need to play at his best.