Vintage tennis from players at top of their game
Thursday Sep 15, 2011
Novak Djokovic. Photo / AP
McEnroe described it as the greatest season in tennis history.
still two Masters Series tournaments, the end-of-season ATP world tour finals
in London and the concluding stages of the Davis Cup to be played, but it would
be hard to disagree with the verdict McEnroe delivered at the end of the US
Slam season could not have had a better finale as Novak Djokovic, the player of
the year by a country mile, beat Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 in a final of
stunning quality that lasted four hours and 10 minutes.
have been finals of more drama, finals with more twists and turns, finals in
which the winner has crushed his opponent more emphatically, but surely no two
players have struck the ball with more consistent power or showed such stunning
athleticism as Djokovic and Nadal did.
the rallies – several of them 20 strokes or more – had the crowd in Arthur Ashe
Stadium gasping in disbelief as both men retrieved balls from seemingly
impossible positions and turned heroic defence into thrilling attack.
end of it, for the 10th time in tournaments this year, the crowd was left to
acclaim Djokovic as a quite extraordinary champion.
been an astonishing year for the 24-year-old Serb. He has won 64 of the 66
matches he has played – his only defeats have been against Roger Federer in the
French Open semifinals and against Andy Murray in the final of the Cincinnati
Masters, when he retired with a sore shoulder – and won three Grand Slam
now beaten Nadal, his predecessor as world No 1 and the winner of the season’s
other Grand Slam crown at the French Open, in six finals in succession this
Budge (in 1938) and Rod Laver (in 1962 and 1969) won all four Grand Slam titles
in a single season, Djokovic has achieved his success in an era which until
this year had been dominated by two of the greatest players of all time in
Nadal and Federer.
traces the start of his extraordinary run back to last year’s US Open, when he
saved two match points against Federer in the semifinals before losing to
“At this level you need
those tough matches against the top guys in order to get confidence, to get
self-belief on the court that you can really win majors and win the big
“I guess it just clicked in
my head. I think that throughout the last couple of years I haven’t changed my
game in any major way. Most of the strokes are the same that they were in the
last two or three years.
“It’s just that I’m now
hitting the shots that I maybe wasn’t hitting in the last two or three years.
I’m going for it, I’m more aggressive, and I have just a different approach to the
semifinals and finals of major events, especially when I’m playing two great
champions, Rafa and Roger.
“In the last couple of
years, that wasn’t the case. I was always trying to wait for their mistakes and
not really having the positive attitude and believing that I can win. This has
changed and the US Open 2010 was definitely one of the turning points in my
Djokovic believes another key to
his success has been playing to a more sensible schedule. “I know when to
have a little break, when to rest my body, when to get ready and prepare,”
“The bottom line is that the
most important thing is to win Grand Slams, because they are the four most
important tournaments in our sport. This is where you want to win. Right now I
feel drained emotionally, physically and mentally, but it’s normal after such a
long year and so many matches. But I have this trophy here and this is what I
was fighting for.”
who believes that the main changes in Djokovic this year have been his confidence and his cutting down on
mistakes, said he had been happy with his season, particularly as he had
added another French Open title to his Grand Slam collection.
was in the final of Wimbledon and the final of the US Open. I fought for both