In an era where Roger Federer won 3 grand slam titles in three separate seasons and Rafa Nadal has dominated opponents with unparalleled athleticism and shotmaking, is it possible that we have just witnessed the greatest single season of the Open Era? Novak Djokovic has made a strong case for that very distinction.
Coming into the final tournament of the year, Novak Djokovic had not only won three of the four Grand Slam titles, but has also amassed a 69-4 record (two of those loses coming due to injury). There was even talk in 2011 that he was planning a wedding with his longtime girlfriend Jelena Ristic. The man did it all. After Djokovic won the US Open in September John McEnroe, who in 1984 compiled a 82-3 record and 13 titles, was quoted by the Guardian as saying “Djokovic is having the greatest year in the history of our sport.” It is always difficult to compare eras when only a few decades ago players were using wooden rackets and sporting short shorts (they had to hinder performance…right?). With new technology came state of the art equipment that required players to play faster. The quickened pace has elevated skill and fitness levels to heights never seen before. How would Laver have held up against Nadal’s top-spin forehand, or Federer against Borg’s heavy two handed backhand?
These are matchups any tennis fan would pay to see. But without our time machine at hand, all we have to compare are the stats. Even with Djokovic’s loss in London at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, he still posses the fourth best single season winning percentage ever. Undoubtedly this debate can go a number different directions with multiple conclusions. Most can agree however, that Djokovic’s dominance this season has been surprising. Djokovic’s own camp would be lying if they said they saw this coming. Until this season Djokovic was always considered a top player but was better known for his classic impressions rather than world class play on the court. So a better question might be, where did this season come from?
Djokovic started playing tennis at the age of four and has been trained by notable tennis coaches in Serbia, Germany, and Monaco. That may sound glamorous, but Djokovic’s 2011 was a product of hours and hours of tennis training. When people questioned his fitness after last years loss at the 2010 US Open he put in the work to improve that part of his game. Personally, I have always enjoyed watching Djokovic play, not only because he puts in the work to be the best, but because he has fun on the court. Obviously Djokovic is a once in a generation player but his approach to tennis is refreshing. My Tennis Lessons believes that the key to a successful tennis lesson is to have a great work out, learn lifelong skills, and most importantly, have fun. You may not win three Grand Slam titles or have the opportunity to marry an international knockout like Djokovic, but working hard and playing hard is something any player can relate to. Whether you just had the greatest season in the Open Era or just had the best workout of the year with one of our tennis instructors, all can agree that tennis should be played with a smile on your face.