Novak Djokovic: Appreciating His Incredible Run

AndersCorrespondent IIIMay 17, 2011

ROME, ITALY - MAY 15:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after victory in the final against Rafael Nadal of Spain during day eight of the Internazoinali BNL D'Italia at the Foro Italico Tennis Centre on May 15, 2011 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic is 37-0 since January 1st and 39-0 since the World Tour Finals in London last year. 

We all know the numbers by now. What is perhaps even more incredible is the amount of top players Novak Djokovic has faced and beaten in this time span.

He's 13-0 against top-10 opposition in 2011. He's 7-0 against Fedal! That is, four-straight final wins against Nadal and three-straight wins against Federer. He's beaten Berdych twice and Söderling once.  

It really doesn't get much better than that. 

We can compare it with previous streaks and say that John McEnroe still has five more wins in the best start of the year ever. But McEnroe beat Ivan Lendl—at that time a zero Grand Slam winner and four-time losing finalist—four times and Jimmy Connors—already 31 years old—once. Moreover, he didn't win during his streak as the Australian Open was placed at the end of the year back then.

In fact, when the first Slam—the French Open—came around, McEnroe's streak ended as he suffered the worst loss of his career when he lost the final to Lendl after being two sets up. To be fair to McEnroe, he did go on to have the best-ever season in terms of win-loss ratio (82-3), winning 13 titles. Nevertheless, he compiled his streak without a Slam.

Novak, on the other hand, has already won both a Slam and four Masters tournaments. If he reaches the semis, he has equaled McEnroe at 42 wins to start a season. If he reaches the final, he's surpassed him. And if he wins, he stands tall at 44-straight wins in 2011 and 46 since November 2010.

That would equal him with the longest winning streak ever—compiled by Guillermo Vilas in 1977 in the post Wimbledon period. After Wimbledon, the Argentinian went on a 46-match winning streak including both the French Open and the US Open.

He eventually fell to Ilie Nãstase before, get this, retiring two sets down in a five-setter, because Nãstase was using spaghetti strings that got banned soon after. The strings created extra spin like the current crop of co-poly strings.

After that match, Vilas won the next 28 before eventually losing to Borg. That makes 74 out of 75, only falling one time to a string that got banned soon afterwards. Pretty impressive.

Is Nole's streak even better?

Tennis is a more global and professional sport, so the competition is broader and deeper. But on this note, any modern player wins an argument against a former great.

The best streak by the current players—surprise, surprise—belongs to Federer at 41 consecutive wins from the US Open 2006 to the Pacific Life Open in early 2007. That streak contained two slams and a World Tour Final title, so it's not exactly an accomplishment to be belittled either. 

Nevertheless, if Novak does go on to win the French Open, it is at the very least clear that he will have had the best start to a season in the Open era.

If he beats the two all-time greats in the process, that is just further icing on the cake.

And to be honest, as he's playing now, it is hard to see anyone upsetting him in a best-of-five match. But Rafa has surprised us before and he will be as keen to preserve his fortress as Novak will be in taking it. My money slightly tilts towards Novak, though.