The final article previewing the World Tour Finals takes a look at the year of Novak Djokovic. The Serb recently recovered the No.1 spot in the ATP rankings from Roger Federer after falling to No.2 in July. While Djokovic hasn’t quite played to the level of his outstanding 2011 (and it shows in his title count), he has still played excellent and will be a deserved year end No.1.
Titles: Australian Open (Hard), Miami (Hard), Toronto (Hard), Beijing (Hard), Shanghai (Hard)
Djokovic would begin at the Australian Open, dropping just one set (vs Lleyton Hewitt) on his way to the semi finals. Despite going down 2-1 in sets against Andy Murray, he would recover and eventually win in just under five hours. After Murray failed to break at 5-5 in the decider, the Serb would punish him for his wastefulness breaking the very next game to take the final set 7-5. After a marathon semi final, it was an even longer final as he and Nadal slugged it out for 5 hours and 53 minutes – the longest Australian Open match ever. Djokovic failed to close the match out in a fourth set tie break but would seal the title with a 7-5 win in the final set to earn his third win in as many finals against Nadal.
He would fail to defend his titles in Dubai and Indian Wells, being knocked out at the semi final stage in both competitons. While the loss to Andy Murray in Dubai wasn’t totally unexpected, losing to John Isner in Indian Wells definitely was. It was an inspired performance from the American though, who came out on top in three sets thanks to tie breaks in the first and third set. However, he would defend Miami gaining revenge on Andy Murray 6-1 7-6 in the final in a tournament where he did not drop one set. David Ferrer and Juan Monaco would also have chances in tie breaks in the quarter final and semi final respectively but would be unable to take advantage.
One of the most astonishing things about his 2011 was his dominance over Rafael Nadal, even on his beloved clay where the Spaniard didn’t win a set. However, Nadal would reassert himself beginning with Monte Carlo. He broke 5 times in a 6-3 6-1 win over Djokovic and would also reclaim the title in Rome in straight sets. Between this was the controversial tournament in Madrid, where Djokovic lost to his countryman Janko Tipsarevic in straights. The last chance for a title on the dirt would be in Roland Garros. There were some unconvincing performances including against Andreas Seppi, where he would need to come from two sets down to defeat the Italian. In the next round, he would save four set points against the home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Between him and the final would be Roger Federer, but it would be a fairly easy straight sets victory. Rafael Nadal however would deny Djokovic the only slam title he still doesn’t have with a victory in four sets. From 0-2, Djokovic seemingly had momentum at 1-2 and a break up before the weather struck and forced them to delay the match until tomorrow. On resumption, it would be fairly easy for Nadal who picked up the French Open once more.
It was after Wimbledon that Djokovic picked up the No.1 spot last year, and he would eventually lose it after the very same time after 53 weeks on top. He would run into a Roger Federer on top form, who would defeat Djokovic in four on his way to winning a seventh Wimbledon title and picking up the No.1 ranking for the first time since 2010. He would also exit at the other grass event of the summer in the London Olympics, failing to break Andy Murray once in a 7-5 7-5 win to fall into the Bronze Medal match against Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro recovered from his four hour epic the previous match to defeat Djokovic in straights.
The return to his favoured hard courts would see Djokovic up his charge for the year end No.1 spot and began with taking the Toronto Masters in what was somewhat of a depleted field. To show his dominance on hard courts – his three set victory over Tommy Haas was the first set he had lost in nine hard court matches. He eventually went in the final to defeat Richard Gasquet in a comfortable 6-3 6-2 where he wasn’t broke once. Roger Federer would pull away for a bit longer, defeating Djokovic in straight sets. More surprising than this was the fact that the opening set saw Federer hand out a bagel. Julien Benneteau, Stanislas Wawrinka, Juan Martin Del Potro and David Ferrer amongst others were defeated for the loss of just one set in his run to the final where he would face Andy Murray. Murray would be pegged back from a 2-0 lead as a fifth set would decide the fate of the final slam of the year. A slow start in the fifth would hurt Djokovic, with an early break being key allowing Murray to run away with the set to finally win his first slam of his career.
Consecutive titles were taken in the Asian swing in the form of Beijing and Shanghai. A straight sets win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga sealed the first while in Shanghai he found himself down multiple match points in the final, including on the serve of his opponent Andy Murray. After finally coming out on top in the tie break 13-11, it would be a fairly comfortable third set to take his second title in two weeks.
Djokovic would finally replace Federer at the top of the rankings once more after the Swiss announced his withdrawal from the Paris Masters. He would lose in his opening match to Sam Querrey from 6-0 2-0 up, although personal issues suggest his mind may have been elsewhere.