2011 may well prove to be one of the most important years ever in tennis.
Rafael Nadal has seen his No. 1 ranking usurped rising Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic.
Roger Federer still has not won a major since the 2010 Australian Open.
While the Swiss master is by no means finished as a player, he may well be on the down-slope of his career. Enter the young Djokovic, who looks likely to enjoy an illustrious prime of his career.
He has already achieved an unfathomable 53-1 record so far in 2011. He has conquered Rafa in all five of their encounters this year—whether it be grass, hard court, or Nadal's favorite: clay. He has a record of 3-1 against Federer (that loss came in the French Open semis.)
The 24-year-old Serb has made no doubt about his dominance, and his current ranking is totally justified.
I will now be giving you an overview of his year so far, with a prediction for the upcoming U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows, and a look ahead to 2012.
Coming into the Australian Open, eyes were fixed upon Djokovic, Nadal, and the returning champion, Federer. Who knew what surprises were to come in this tournament.
In the first round, Novak faced Marcel Granollers, who never saw the Serbian sensation coming. Djokovic eviscerated Granollers in straight sets (6-1, 6-3, 6-1).
The next round wasn't too much of a challenge as Djokovic eliminated Croatian Ivan Dodiq in four sets (7-5, 6-7, 6-0, 6-2).
In the succeeding round, Novak was to play fellow Serbian, the "tricky" Viktor Troicki. Djokovic took the first set easily but Viktor retired from the match due to injury, allowing Novak to advance.
The next few rounds were a breeze for the Serb as he grasped each win in straight sets against the likes of Federer, Berdych, and Almagro.
Nadal suffered a heart-breaking loss to Spaniard David Ferrer. The path to the Australian title was opening up wonderfully for Djokovic.
In the final, Novak faced Andy Murray—in his second straight appearance in the Aussie Open final—whom he defeated quite easily in straight sets to clinch his second grand slam (his first came in the '08 Aussie Open.)
His confidence flowing, Novak Djokovic couldn't be more exhilarated for the iconic tournament at Roland Garros.
With Nadal playing on the surface best that suits his heavily-predicated spin game, defeating the Spaniard was always going to be a tall order.
But with a good performance against Nadal on clay in Rome and Madrid, Djokovic appeared ready to dethrone Rafa.
The preliminary rounds of the tournament were routine for the Serb, winning the first two in straight sets, and beating Juan Martin Del Potro in four sets. He then went on to beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet in straight sets (6-4, 6-4, 6-2).
The quarters were an automatic advance for Djokovic as his opponent, Fabio Fognini, couldn't play in the match.
The semifinals of this year's French Open were heavily anticipated, as Djokovic was to take on familiar adversary Roger Federer, and Rafa Nadal was was to take on Andy Murray.
Nadal cruised past Murray in straight sets, while Novak suffered a disappointing loss in four sets to the Swiss player.
This has been his only loss to date.
Nadal then went on to clinch his sixth French Open title, placing him in a tie with Bjorn Borg for most all-time.
Despite getting eliminated after a disappointing loss at Roland Garros, Djokovic had little reason to doubt his talent heading into the 125th anniversary of the Wimbledon championships.
The initial rounds were nothing close to a challenge for the Serbian giant, who conceded no sets against the likes of Jeremy Chardy, Kevin Anderson, and Michael Llodra.
As the quarterfinal fixtures were announced, I'm sure rising star Bernard Tomic must have gotten the jitters upon learning he was to play Djokovic. This match wasn't much of a strain for the Serb as he took out the Aussie in four sets (6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5).
Along with Novak, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga advanced to the semis after a sensational win, coming back from a two set deficit against Roger Federer.
The semifinal match was nothing less than a thriller as Novak took down the powerful Frenchman in four exhilarating sets (7-6, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3). Many memorable points were played out in this match, where last-ditch lunges for points became the norm. Such was the desire to win, shared between the two men.
Finishing his own semifinal in four sets, Nadal joined Djokovic in a final predicated upon class. The Serb would cruise past the Spaniard in a four-set brawl (6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3,) clinching his first-ever Wimbledon title.
After suffering a loss to Nadal in last year's U.S. Open final, I'm sure Novak will enter the tournament with plenty of motivation.
And with Nadal in pursuit of more grand slam titles, I'm sure this year's tournament at Flushing Meadows will not disappoint. Although these two players are favorites to win the title, I would not count out Roger Federer, Andy Murray, or perhaps even Robin Soderling, who may emerge as a dark horse contender.
My predictions for the U.S. Open are that the usual top four, Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Murray, will reach the semifinals. Then, Djokovic and Nadal will conquer their adversaries to battle it out in a second-consecutive final, where I think the Serbian will once more prevail in four sets.
2011 was always going to be a crucial year in Novak Djokovic's career. After suffering from fatigue in past campaigns, the Serb revolutionized his nutrition program and dramatically augmented his fitness levels. He has been a different man thus far.
I'm see no reason why his success shouldn't carry into next year. He will probably be hoping to grasp a French Open title after his failure to snatch up that trophy this season.
I also think that he'll have to watch out for Nadal, as I'm positive the Mallorcan will be doubling his efforts to try to solve the puzzle that is Novak Djokovic.
Otherwise, I'm positive the Serb will put in a stellar performance in every match, whether it's a first round match in a tournament, or the last.
Please don't hesitate to give your feedback, and feel free to say how well you think Novak will do in the U.S. Open and next year!